MANILA, Philippines — The surge in the transportation department’s consultancy spending under the helm of Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was due to an increase in infrastructure deals tendered and awarded by the agency, a transportation official said.
Transportation Assistant Secretary for Planning and Finance Sherielysse Reyes Bonifacio made the clarification in an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, January 20, following allegations that the transportation department has been overspending on consultancy services.
“There was no disallowance. I’m not going to recommend ghost people. We needed outside help because these are pilot projects….The projects involved were not yet done before. Nobody knows yet from the inside how to do it, so we needed to get the experts,” Bonifacio said, showing a summary of the hired consultants and infrastructure deals for 2014.
Her statement came after several social media citizens expressed outrage over a report released by the Commission on Audit (COA) saying DOTC, including its two attached agencies, spent a total of P354.497 million to get advice from experts. She said this was justified.
A copy of the summary of 2014 consultancy services furnished by DOTC showed over 40 infrastructure projects, many being implemented under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
The list, however, excludes those of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Some of the projects under the DOTC-Office of the Secretary that needed consultants are Davao Sasa Wharf, Siargao Airport Development, San Jose (Camarines Sur) Airport Development, Surigao City Airport Development, Light Rail Transit Line 2 Operations and Maintenance (O&M), Bus Rationalization, and Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) O&M.
Bonifacio said consultants were the ones who studied and completed requirements needed for the projects to be approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board.
Under the Government Procurement Reform Act or Republic Act 9184, infrastructure projects amounting to P1 billion and up should get NEDA Board approval.
“But how do you submit to NEDA? They will require an FS (feasibility study), environmental impact assessment, economic viability report, financial returns report. And you hire consultants to do these things,” Bonifacio said.
The DOTC official said the COA financial report did not identify the specific projects and consultants involved “because what was published was a consolidated one.”
“We don’t have a say on how COA do their report. Just because they said it this way, doesn’t mean we didn’t provide the needed information and other requirements,” Bonifacio added.
A look at the summary of the DOTC-Office of the Secretary’s 2014 list of consultancy services shows that the agency hired 25 individuals and firms to study several infrastructure projects.
Some of the big firms hired by the agency in 2014 include:
- Engineering and Development Corporation of the Philippines for the master plans for Siargao Airport Development Project, San Jose Airport Development Project, and General Santos City Aerotropolis (P8.91 million)
- Incheon International Airport Corporation for the completion works for full operation of NAIA terminals 1 and 3 (P119.47 million)
- Woodfields Consultants, Incorporated for feasibility studies for Central Spine RORO and Metro Manila Urban Transport (P22.69 million)
“This list is only for the Office of Secretary. It does not include those of LTFRB and LTO,” Bonifacio said.
DOTC’s overall consultancy services in 2014 is 2,000% higher than the P17.452 million spent by the department in 2012, under then secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who left his post in October that year.
During Abaya’s first full year as DOTC chief in 2013, the agency spent about P88 million on consultants.
The breakdown of the P354.497 million for “consultancy services” in 2014 is as follows, according to the COA report:
- DOTC-Office of the Secretary – P352,974,921.89
- LTFRB – P985,107.47
- LTO – P536,845.47
Abaya has been heavily criticized over the country’s mass transportation problems, including the sorry state of NAIA and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT3).
Critics, like the camp of opposition leader Vice President Jejomar Binay, have demanded that Abaya resign, while presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe urged President Benigno Aquino III to fire Abaya immediately. Poe also questioned why Abaya was not indicted for graft over an allegedly anomalous contract for the MRT3.
Abaya is the acting president of the Liberal Party, which Aquino chairs. Aquino himself has junked calls to replace the DOTC chief, saying Abaya continues to enjoy his trust. – Rappler.com