We have to do our part

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

In his first State of the Nation address in 2016, President Duterte said that his fight against criminality, illegal drugs, and corruption would be relentless and sustained, and that for those who have valid reasons to complain about graft and corruption, the gates of Malacanang would be open.

Five years after, in his last SONA after reality has set in, the President has acknowledged that corruption is endemic in government and that it cannot be stopped unless the government is overturned completely. He even suggested to the next president to just declare martial law, fire everybody, and allow the new generation to come in to work for the government.

True, one President, one administration cannot change a culture of corruption deeply ingrained in the system.

I remember a former administrator of the National Food Authority who, upon being appointed to the agency, vowed to rid the NFA of corruption. He gave up, left the agency, and acknowledged the fact that back then, the NFA was being run by a syndicate and that it was impossible to eliminate corruption at the agency unless he gets rid of everyone.

That was just one agency. President Duterte promised to get rid of corruption in the entire system, but now he is saying it just cannot be done during his six-year term.

He said that over 200 government personnel have already been dismissed. He even created the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to run after erring officials. Many more cases for violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practice act are pending with the Office of the Ombudsman and the courts, and are still awaiting resolution. In the meantime, the corrupt system is still in place. One corrupt official or employee goes, another one is appointed to take his place. More likely than not, that new official or employee, no matter how well-meaning he or she is, will just be gobbled up by the corrupt system. He or she either does nothing about it, closes his or her eyes to what’s happening around him or her, or becomes part of the system.

We are just talking about the national government.

Corruption in the local governments can even be worse.

Just recently, the Commission on Audit (COA), in its 2020 annual audit report, revealed that at least 19 completed infrastructure projects of the Romblon provincial government, costing P290.6 million, had several deficiencies in the actual work accomplishment. It said that the projects are not in conformity with the plans and programs of work of the respective contracts, thus significantly affecting the attainment of the intended purpose.

COA recommended to Governor Jose Riano the blacklisting of the contractors involved if they fail to correct the deficiencies or pay the costs of the defects.

Delays were also discovered in the construction of farm to market roads, with bridges, in Barangay Pato-o Proper, Sitio Aurora, Odiongan, Romblon, with a total contract cost of P168. 112 million. COA acting supervising auditor Concepcion Caldit said that this was caused by unsatisfactory performance and unjustified delays on the part of the contractor, as well as laxity in the supervision of the project.

Furthermore, the audit report revealed that last year, progress payments of the provincial government for 31 infrastructure projects – charged against the 20 percent development fund totaling P75.5 million – were not supported with complete documentation, thus, casting doubt on their regularity, propriety, and validity.

COA also noted that the 19 infrastructure projects implemented by the provincial government were found deficient compared to the allowable COA cost estimates. It said absence of documents casted doubt on the regularity, propriety, and validity of payments.

The report likewise said that the provincial accountant failed to withhold taxes on payments to consultants totaling P6.6 million, resulting in overpayment to consultants and exposing the provincial government, as well as the consultants to tax liabilities and penalties.

Meanwhile, in the municipality of Cajidiocan, the COA discovered that 39 infrastructure projects with contract cost of P55.6 million had been awarded to contractors whose financial and technical documents have errors or deficiencies, thereby casting doubt on the effectiveness of the post-qualification conducted by the bids and awards committee (BAC).

The COA found out, among others, that 36 of 39 infra projects have no attached certification of availability of funds approved by the municipal accountant, while two had no proof  that invitation to bid had been posted in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).

The municipality, headed by Mayor Nicosia Ramos, had disbursed P38.1 million for its 33 infrastructure projects with a total contract cost of P53.9 million despite incomplete supporting documents, thereby casting doubt on the regularity of the payments made, COA said.

There are 81 provinces in the country, which are further subdivided into component cities and municipalities. Each has its own set of problems, most notably corruption, drugs, and criminality. Each infrastructure project implemented in each province, city and municipality, each disbursement of public funds, has to be scrutinized by COA. If the agency finds out that laws and regulations have been violated, complaints are filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, which also has to conduct its own inquiry into the matter.

No wonder our country remains poor and the people complain everytime new or higher taxes, duties, and other charges are collected from them.

The President cannot micromanage the government. He has to rely on his appointed officials in the executive department, to the leaders elected by the people to run the local government units and to sit in Congress, to cascade the message and to implement his directive to rid the government of corruption.

The people have to do their part. We cannot blame the President for not being able to solve this seemingly insurmountable problem of corruption, criminality, and drugs if we do not think long and hard before we write down names on the ballot. Change has to come from us.



For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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