P118B in DPWH projects delayed, unimplemented: COA

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    GOVERNMENT projects worth P118.4 billion funded under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were delayed, suspended, terminated, or never got past the planning stage, according to a 2018 report of the Commission on Audit released yesterday.

    Affected projects included the construction of school buildings needed to decongest public school classrooms and farm-to-market roads that would have aided the agricultural sector get better income from crops and livestock.

    “Inadequate detailed engineering due to absence of proper coordination mechanism with (local government units) and other concerned agencies, and failure to establish the technical viability of the projects …resulted in delayed completion and non-implementation of projects totaling P118,400, 838,831.64,” the audit team said.

    The audit finding covered 4,315 DPWH projects undertaken from 2012 to 2018.

    The biggest chunk involving 3,784 projects with a total cost of P107.23 billion were not finished or completed within the contract time or delivery date and includes 2,969 regular infrastructure projects, 745 school buildings and 70 farm to market roads.

    Auditors also counted 291 suspended projects with a combined value of P8.819 billion; 22 projects worth P2.133 billion that have not been started at all; and 18 projects terminated with an aggregate cost of P218.221 million.

    “Significant delays in the implementation of the projects were caused by numerous suspension orders, time extensions, and variation orders issued by the DPWH offices,” the COA noted.

    Reacting to the audit report, DPWH officials said demand letters and notices have been sent to contractors to fast tract project completion and to comply with timelines set in their contracts with the government.

    In addition, management said a memorandum has been issued to all agency offices to strictly monitor and evaluate all on-going contracts to prevent work slippages.

    Better coordination is also being worked out with local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for earlier issuance of necessary clearances to meet the project timetables.

    Among the grounds cited in the office orders were unfavorable weather conditions (typhoons), peace and order concerns, road right-of-way, delayed issuance of permits/clearances from other government agencies, modification of designs or programs of work, and inadequate manpower, construction materials or project supervision and monitoring.

    The COA pointed out that many of these factors, except hostile weather, are “procedural and consequential issues” that should have been considered and resolved during preliminary engineering studies on project viability or during pre-construction activities.

    Of the 3,784 delayed projects, the audit team said 157 incurred work slippages exceeding the allowable limit of 10 percent. In all these projects have a combined cost of P5.621 billion.

    “However, management did not rescind/terminate the contracts nor imposed liquidated damages to the contractors concerned as required under the rules and regulations,” it added.

    While the agency posted 92.57 percent obligated budget or P696.213 billion of P752.066 billion allotments, the COA noted that less than 40 percent was disbursed during the year.

    This meant that only P298.44 billion was paid out as actual expenses while the rest of the funds remained with the DPWH together with P55.853 billion in unobligated balance.

    The same situation has been noted since 2016 when there was only 34.14 percent disbursement rate and 33.6 percent in 2017.

    Again, delays or non-implementation of infrastructure projects were blamed.

    Yet, Congress continued to increase allotments for the DPWH year on year: P542.235 billion in 2016, P662.691 billion in 2017, and P752.066 billion in 2018.

    “Low disbursement rate still indicates that Management was not able to effectively manage the increasing amount of funds entrusted to the agency due to low physical delivery of target projects and activities,” the COA said.