Lawmaker calls for congressional inquiry into LTO's IT system changes

Lawmaker calls for congressional inquiry into LTO's IT system changes
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade led the opening of the C3 at the LTO’s main office in Quezon City.
Philstar.com / Irish Lising, file

MANILA, Philippines — In the wake of the Land Transportation Office’s statement that it may go back to its previous IT provider, a lawmaker has urged Congress to probe the legality and ramifications of the plan. 

In her privilege speech at the House session Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Party-list) questioned the need for such a change, pointing out what she said were the possible adverse results of the LTO’s “seemingly hasty” reaction.

Herrera said she would give the company the benefit of the doubt for the time being but claimed that this course of action may “set the agency backward by several steps”, and “ultimately result in increased costs and longer, more difficult transactions for the motoring public.”

“During my consultations with key stakeholders, they were very appreciative of the fact that the current IT provider of the LTO no longer charges interconnectivity fees for motor vehicle registration, driver’s license transactions, and law enforcement and traffic adjudication service transactions, unlike before,” Herrera emphasized.

“The LTO is claiming that the current system has glitches, but there are reports from the field which indicate that these glitches are actually due to human interventions and manual overrides done by agency personnel."  

Since 2018, the LTO’s IT systems provider has been Dermalog Identification Systems, a German company with a 27-year track record in biometrics and data security, with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.   

Dermalog replaced Stradcom Corporation, which held the billions-worth contract from 1998 to 2016. 

The lawmaker went on to claim that her office had received reports that Dermalog tech representatives, data analysts, and systems engineers are not authorized to use basic working necessities, such as desks, tables, chairs, and "everyday office fixtures" when they visit LTO satellite offices. 

This is because, she said, under the terms of their previous contract, Stradcom owns all IT-related hardware and equipment.

Herrera added that she had received reports that glitches were taking place because LTO personnel are manually over-riding the current IT system, and introducing person-to-person transactions in procedures.

"While these are just reports for now, I think the irony is not lost on my esteemed colleagues that an IT system designed to minimize human intervention is now being accused of glitches, because humans are over-riding it," she said. 

"If anything, it may give rise to public speculation on why the LTO appears to be in a rush to find a new IT supplier – or in this case, revert to a previous one – when they have a signed, active agreement with an existing corporation."

Long lines at LTO offices

To recall, newly-minted LTO chief Teofilo Guadiz lambasted Dermalog’s services, blaming the information technology provider for the long lines of customers in need of service at the LTO's offices. 

Guadiz went on to say that for him, “the old IT system provides a better solution”, and that “Stradcom is welcome (to bid for their old contract).”

“An agency head that threatens to terminate a contract, and then publicly commends a possible bidder, may be considered a case of impropriety – but let’s give Asec. Guadiz the benefit of the doubt. Before anything else, however, we must examine if the commitments to Dermalog are being honored, and if that is the reason why their operations have encountered problems,” Herrera said in a statement sent to reporters.

Based on the stipulations of the LTO-Stradcom phase-out agreement last 2016, the LTO has full and complete rights of ownership of the database of motorists, thus Stradcom is required to turn over this information to the agency’s new IT contractor.

But Herrera claimed that according to unnamed sources from inside the LTO, Stradcom has yet to comply with this provision, despite the fact that the agency has paid them a total of P7.53 billion during the last four-year phase of their contract.

This absence of a database is allegedly one of the key reasons why Dermalog’s operations have experienced setbacks.

“Why suddenly go back to square one with another provider, especially since we are in the middle of improvements, and there are still considerable funds that the LTO has yet to spend to upgrade their current systems? There will surely be public skepticism about this, so we must ensure that such a drastic move can be fully justified,” Herrera said.

"Since this is an issue that will affect millions of our countrymen, it is first and foremost worthwhile to examine if the glitches happening at the LTO are indeed the fault of its current IT provider."



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