By Ben Rosario
Adverse audit findings indicating inefficiency in the implementation of multi-billion peso road projects and irregularities in the disbursement of funds have justified approval in Congress of the bid to abolish the well-funded Road Board which is tasked to in charge of the Motor Vehicles Users Charge.
The Commission on Audit found a number of adverse observations in its 2017 annual audit of the agency which lawmakers sought to abolish through the recent passage of separate bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The COA chided the Road Board for failing to “efficiently and effectively” implement the P3.97-billion National Road Lighting Program that is aimed at setting a “new standard for safety and sustainability” in the lighting of the country’s national roads.
For one, the audit agency noted that the agency does not have the technical capability to implement the NRLP even as it failed to replace busted/missing luminaires in lamp posts.
These failures deprived the public of the “benefits” derived from “eco-friendly and sufficiently-lit roads.”
Controversies affecting road right of way and lack of coordination with local government end users also contribute to the Road Board’s disappointing accomplishments in the NRLP.
Implementation of programmed projects costing P10.205 billion have been delayed by the Road Board, COA said.
“Out of the 391 programmed projects for CY 2017, 122 projects costing P3,693,507,726.61 are still on-going, 78 projects costing P1,457,525,203.01 have not been started while 106 projects costing P3,738,548,564.38 were not yet implemented/obligated due to the slow procurement process and failure to adequately coordinate with other government agencies and public utility corporations at the early planning stage of project implementation,” the audit agency reported.
On the other hand, 121 others programmed in previous years and granted a total budget of nearly P1.316 billion have yet to be started.
“Thus the public was deprived of the benefits from well-maintained and sufficiently lit roads with adequate road signages and accessible overpasses,” auditors lamented.
To address the problem, state auditors urged to impose liquidated damages against slow contractors and rescind or terminate projects with negative slippage of 15 percent or more.
The COA also proposed the disqualification and blacklisting of erring contractors.
According to the COA, the Road Board has also failed to utilize Road Safety Devices in the form of manlift elevators costing P35.57 in overpasses in Region III. Inadequate coordination and funding for its operations were pinpointed as weak spots.
“Technical review and evaluation of seven projects disclosed (a ) excessive costs of P7,961,956.52 due to overstatement of quantity/cost of work items (b) overpayment over actual accomplishments in the amount of P3,539,975.35 and (c) technical defects equivalent to P729,326.55 which, if not corrected/rectified by concerned contracts, may result in wastage of government funds and deprive the public of the maximum use of the infrastructures,” the auditors said.
Audit examiners were also dismayed over the inability of the Road Board to fully use the Motor Vehicle Inspection System facility of the Land Transporation Office that cost government P437,991,781 in expenditures.
“Poor planning” on the part of the board was also blamed for the unproductive use of 11 sets of MVIS equipment purchased in 2008 at a cost of P209,418,870.55.
The CoA noted that the project was implemented as part of government’s objective to improve air quality and reduce traffic accidents. These goals were not accomplished due to the Road Board’s inaction.
Auditors asked the board to immediately finish the construction of the MVIC buildings and replace MVIS equipment that is already obsolete and beyond repair.
“Management failed to strictly observe pertinent laws, rules, and regulations resulting in the incurrence of irregular expenditures for foreign travels, bonuses and allowances and consultancy services in the amount of P3,483,733.79. there were deficient documentary requirements on the disbursements relating to consultancy services in the amount of P75,349,950,” COA added.