THOUSANDS of government projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with a total contract cost of P101.69 billion have been plagued by delays, been suspended, terminated, or simply never left the drawing board, the Commission on Audit revealed in its 2019 report released last October 15.
The report covered 2,411 contracts for regular infrastructure projects, school buildings, and farm-to-market roads in all regions of the county funded from 2015 to 2019.
Government auditors listed 1,740 projects worth P65.99 billion that failed to meet the completion target; 550 projects worth P31.05 billion that got suspended; 40 projects amounting to P1.444 billion that were terminated; and 81 projects with a combined value of P3.206 billion that did not even start.
In its comments to the audit observations, the DPWH said it has already sent out demand letters and notices to erring contractors to speed up activities to stay within the projects’ timetables.
It also assured the COA that a system has been set up to improve coordination with related agencies, regulatory offices and LGUs to address problems and anticipate issues moving forward.
In all instances, evaluators found a common problem – inadequate detailed engineering attributed to lack of coordination with the local government unit where the project was supposed to be constructed as well as with public utilities and licensing agencies, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
How the projects secured budget appropriations in the first place is a curious anomaly since the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act precisely requires that all undertakings of the government are supposed to have a mandatory feasibility study or a preliminary engineering assessment to avoid conflicts with land use and local zoning guidelines.
Based on COA’s list, DPWH Region 4-B had the worst problem meeting project timetables with 114 infrastructure projects worth P16.223 billion all missing the deadline.
Misamis Oriental First District Engineering Office under DPWH Regional Office 10 took second spot with 84 projects totaling P14.736 billion that missed the completion date.
In the list of suspended projects, the runaway leader is DPWH Regional Office 11 with 86 projects aggregating P15.127 billion.
On the other hand, DPWH Regional Office 3 is the frontrunner in terminated projects with eight contracts worth P765.185 million that are not bogged down.
DPWH Regional Office 11 again emerged top of the list in unimplemented projects with 11 public works contracts worth P2.212 billion that have never broken ground.
Agency officials cited a long list of reasons for the dismal record including bad weather, peace and order condition, road right-of-way disputes, lengthy processing of excavation permits and related clearances, modification of design and work plans, non-availability of project location, insufficient manpower provided by the contractor, lack of equipment, challenges of securing construction materials, inaccessibility of the work site for heavy equipment, and late release of funds.
But the COA was unimpressed.
“Except for typhoon or unfavorable weather condition, all issues enumerated above …are factors which are procedural and consequential issues that should have been considered and resolved during preliminary engineering study on project viability,” auditors pointed out.
The COA recommended that liquidated damages be charged against contractors with negative slippages of more than 10 percent and DPWH officials and personnel who failed to do so be slapped with sanctions.
It also urged that contractors who have terminated their projects be blacklisted and disqualified from participating in the bidding of other government contracts in the future.