By Malou Mangahas
and Karol Ilagan
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
(Second of five parts)
Apparently, the bigness of the projected bill of Build, Build, Build — about 5.4 percent in 2017 to 7.4 percent in 2022 of gross domestic product, or P8.4 trillion in all in five years (compared to the P2.4 trillion or so total infrastructure budget during the Aquino administration’s six years) — has also magnified multiple-fold the opportunities as well as the costs of corruption. And with the focus often on the money to be made, many projects have wound up suffering from poor planning and monitoring, and are awarded with unsettled right-of-way or in some areas, security issues, among others.
Project identification, evaluation and approval, as well as the competitive public bidding, notice of award, and local government permits and clearances, have also run into delays until mid-year, or by the onset the rainy season, thus impeding actual construction work, or even the deployment of workers, equipment, and aggregates.
In addition, there is the fact that there are just too many projects to do, prompting some big and small contractors to enter into subcontracting arrangements but submitted as joint venture agreements. Several small contractors, in violation to procurement rules, have even resorted to borrowing the licenses of some big contractors, in exchange for flat two- to five-percent fees out of the total project cost.
Bad and corrupt projects, according to various sources, result when agencies fail to identify the right and needed projects; the procurement process is not competitive or is marred by collusive bidding and influence-pedding by politicians and contractors; project cost is not commensurate to desired project quality; and implementation of projects is not monitored and achieved within deadline.
Back in harness
To be sure, corruption and inefficiency have long marred public-works contracts. In 2009, for instance, PCIJ reported that Arroyo’s rush to roll out projects resulted in obscure contractors bagging billion-peso worth of contracts even though there wasn’t enough proof that they were capable of doing quality work.
Eight years later, with Duterte at the helm, contractors with a history of blacklisting, registration revocation, graft cases, poor performance, and political ties have again emerged as the top firms moving earth to open roads to traffic. (To be continued)