The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Supreme Court for its failure to ensure the construction of 39 Halls of Justice (HOJ) nationwide, which were already funded under the General Appropriations Act from 2016 to 2019.
Based on the 2019 audit of the High Court, “out of the 48 infrastructure projects on the Halls of Justice for calendar years 2016 to 2019, 39 projects or 81.25 percent were not constructed or repaired.”
The state auditors also noted that five projects or 10.42 percent were not yet completed since 2016, and four projects or 8.33 percent were completed but beyond the scheduled dates of completion.
“The causes were due to inadequate planning, slow procurement activities, lack of coordination with LGUs concerned/Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and lack of technical personnel, resulting in idle/unutilized funds of P3.902 billion, denoting a low absorptive capacity of the agency in the efficient and effective utilization of its budgets for infrastructure projects funded under the General Appropriations Acts (GAA),” the report said.
Based on the audit report, the Supreme Court has received P3,949,705,088.24 from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from 2016 to 2019 under the Justice System Infrastructure Program (JUSIP), specifically for the construction or completion and/or repair or rehabilitation of 48 HOJ nationwide.
The budgets for the HOJ ranges from P6 million to P836 million.
The COA noted that the DBM released P210 million in 2016; P912.36 million in 2017; P1.047 billion in 2018; and P1.78 billion in 2019.
The COA recommended the SC to use its funds for the infrastructure projects effectively and efficiently by directing the Office on Halls of Justice (OHJ) to coordinate with the concerned LGU to determine if the donated lots for the projects were properly turned over to the Court before budget proposal for the projects or inclusion in the approved Annual Procurement Plan (APP), or with the DPWH as implementing agency in the construction or repair of an HOJ.
The government auditors also cited the need to properly plan all infrastructure projects by conducting preliminary and detailed engineering activities, and ensure that the plans, designs, drawing, and other required documents had been finalized prior to the conduct of the procurement activities to avoid delays.
According to them, to ensure the timely implementation of infrastructure projects, the performance of the contractors should be monitored.
Among the other recommendations of COA are to direct the Administrative Division to revisit the staffing pattern of the OHJ an consider the augmentation of its technical personnel to enable the Office to perform its functions well and effectively, or engage the service of consultant/s to assist the OHJ directly and/or require their staff to attend procurement trainings conducted by the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) for purposes of hastening project implementation; and assign a separate office to monitor the implementation of the infrastructure projects by the OHJ to ensure their completion within the deadlines and strengthen the internal controls on segregation of functions.