DOTC fees for consultants shoot up by 2,000% under Abaya
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) shelled out hundreds of millions of pesos for "consultancy services" in 2014, the bulk of them under the office of Secretary Joseph Emilio "Jun" Abaya, state auditors said.
In a report released Thursday, January 7, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that the DOTC, including two attached agencies, spent a total of P354.497 million to get advice from experts.
The total payment for consultants was the second biggest item in the agency's maintenance and other operating expenses for 2014, next only to electricity (P357.22 million).
The amount is also around 2,000% higher than the P17.452 million spent by the DOTC for consultants in 2012, under then Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, who left the agency in October of that year.
In 2013, during Abaya's first full year as DOTC chief, 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 (DOTC-OSEC) - P352,974,921.89
- Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) - P985,107.47
- Land Transportation Office (LTO) - P536,845.47
None of these agencies identified their consultants or the specific projects these consultants were hired for. It is also unclear how many consultants were paid.
In its explanation during the audit, the DOTC said that the more than P354 million spent “represents payments to various creditors for consulting services rendered to DOTC-OSEC such as: upgrading of Oracle application system and updating of feasibility study of airports, EDSA MRT3, etcetera.”
Recently, state auditors also discovered that contracts for toilet improvement projects in 10 attached agencies of the DOTC "proved to be disadvantageous." COA said that the DOTC adopted a complicated procurement scheme, leading to the possible wastage of some P352 million.
The DOTC is also working with COA to resolve issues in the LTO's plate standardization program. In December 2015, the LTO suspended the collection of fees for the replacement of old license plates, after COA issued a notice of disallowance.
Abaya, who replaced Roxas as DOTC chief in October 2012, has been heavily criticized over the country's mass transportation problems, including the state of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 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, while Aquino is chairman. The DOTC chief previously said it would only take "one text [message]" from the President and he would leave his post. But Malacañang came to Abaya's defense, saying he continues to enjoy Aquino's trust. – Rappler.com