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Audit commission flags 14 projects of the Transportation Department for inordinate delay
Commuters disembark from a train at a station in Manila on Feb. 16. (Photo: AFP)
A senior Catholic official in the Philippines called on the Marcos administration on July 19 to keep government transactions transparent, particularly in the transportation department.
Father Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Committee on Public Affairs said the Marcos government should not cover up any corrupt transaction made by the previous administration under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The present government should not cover up any transaction, especially if they are questionable transactions made by the previous administration under President Duterte. Transparency is one of the pillars of good governance,” the bishops’ executive secretary said in an interview with Church-run Radyo Veritas.
Secillano made the comment after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged 14 foreign-assisted projects of the Department of Transportation worth 1.61 trillion pesos ($28.60 billion) that suffered implementation problems in 2021.
State auditors found questionable procedures in procurement and implementation that led to delays, forcing the government to spend more than the allocated budget.
“It bears stressing that the issues encountered in the implementation of the projects should be immediately addressed to prevent further extension of services/project’s completion/implementation period, and consequently incurrence of additional commitment fees/charges in case of extension of the loan validity period,” said the audit commission in its report.
The transportation department, however, said the delays were caused by the pandemic when it forced many industries to shut down.
The audit commission, however, said not all delays and expenses could be blamed on Covid-19, such as the restructuring of technical concerns of public trains and highways.
“Six foreign-assisted projects were likely to request approval for restructuring in 2022 as an effect of the implementation issues. But the department could not forever blame Covid-19 for this. Proper management is key for us not to go beyond the allocated budget,” said the COA report.
Father Secillano said government officials should express their love for the country by making sure public money is spent wisely.
“Each government employee and official has an obligation to make sure that taxpayers’ money is to be spent wisely, that is, in building public infrastructure, not to be pocketed by politicians,” said the clergyman.
Shunning corruption was the government’s assurance that public office is a public trust, he said.
“It assures the public that funds are used for their intended purposes and not pocketed by unscrupulous leaders. This is what we need to assure the public,” he added. “With transparency, both the government and its officials are deemed above suspicion because of their openness for scrutiny and willingness to assume accountability.”
Anti-corruption group the Multisectoral Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) said Filipinos should not remain complacent in reading audit reports because every Filipino has the duty to safeguard public funds.
“I hope everyone will not take the report of the Commission on Audit lightly. We call on volunteers in and out of the government to investigate on these transactions as we do our own,” MATA member Jeric Castro told UCA News.
A recent report by Transparency International revealed the Philippines is the 117 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The Philippines likewise scored a “historic low” of 33 out of 100 on a scale that measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to Transparency International.
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