June 23, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The City Planning and Development Office has taken measures to address the findings of the Commission on Audit regarding the city government’s dismal accomplishment in the implementation of infrastructure projects.

CPDO head Ar. Donna Tabangin outlined during the May 13 session of the city council the challenges in project implementation and response measures the department will implement to address the COA findings.

She cited the absence of a development roadmap by the city government and a feasibility study as reasons why some projects were delayed, unimplemented, or terminated.

Tabangin also summarized the response measures which are for the local government to return all funds for unimplemented projects to the funding agencies or the Local Development Fund so that by 2025, they start with a clean slate.

The number of projects to be implemented within a calendar year will also be cut down to ensure the program of work and project timeline is followed.

Tabangin said the problem with delayed projects is implementing departments “take in” simultaneous projects thinking they can implement everything in a year’s time but personnel end up overwhelmed by the volume of work required in the preparation of program of work.

She said every department should have a time and motion study so they will determine how much workload they can accommodate.

Cutting down may mean fewer projects in one year but there is a higher probability that those programmed to be implemented and finished within the year, will be accomplished. She said this avoids possibility of funds being returned to the funding agency and lessens the workload of personnel.

Instead of giving projects to individual barangays, Tabangin said the CPDO suggested clustering of projects per district. This means project implementation within the calendar year will concentrate only in the barangays belonging to a certain district. Other districts will follow in the succeeding years.

Every project proposal should also be prepared one year before implementation and should be accompanied by a feasibility study, Tabangin said.

To ensure that programs of work are prepared on time, Tabangin said City Hall departments should be prepared to hire job order personnel to handle additional workload.

For projects that take more than one year to finish, Tabangin said the departments were advised to consider project phasing or dividing the projects into smaller components.

Inputs on how to address the COA’s audit observation memorandum are also contained in a proposed ordinance authored by Councilor Mylen Yaranon, which mandates all departments that their plans, programs, and activities should be aligned with the local development plan.

This, as the city council expressed concern over the series of audit observation memorandums (AOMs)  of COA regarding unimplemented projects reckoning from 2018.

“Saan ba ang problema?” Councilor Leandro Yangot Jr. asked, adding the AOMs should be addressed immediately to avoid the possibility of the issue being carried over to the next administration.

Tabangin said the problem is the entire process of planning.

“The problem is the entire process. If the design was not done properly at the very beginning then errors happen throughout the process of implementation that is why we are fixing the planning part.”

The CEO also welcomes the CPDO’s plans but clarified the implementing departments are not entirely at fault.

CEO Officer-in-Charge Richard Lardizabal said the delay or termination or projects are due to factors beyond their control such as project overlap, no interested bidder, and contractors who lack personnel and materials resulting in negative slippages, hence their recommendation to terminate a project. 

Some councilors also suggested amendments to the CPDO’s action plan.

Councilor Benny Bomogao said a feasibility study should be required only on high impact projects, while Councilor Peter Fianza said the clustering of projects per district should be reexamined.

Fianza said there may be urgent projects in the barangays that need immediate action but might not be acted upon in case a barangay is not within the district covered as “priority” within the calendar year.

In the case of national government-funded projects, Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and Councilor Jose Molintas suggested to the Department of Public Works and Highways to improve its coordination system with the LGU to avoid overlapping of projects.

Baguio City District Engineer Rene Zarate and Planning Division Head Cesario Rillera said they have started the process by inviting City Hall representatives, not just the barangay officials who will directly benefit from the project.

They also committed to assist the city in preparing a feasibility study, using the prescribed format of the DPWH.