May 23, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The Commission on Audit has advised the city government of Baguio to institute measures that will ensure efficiency in the implementation of infrastructure projects after only P257 million worth of projects out of the P3.3 billion programmed for 2023 have been accomplished.

In an audit observation memorandum dated April 11, the COA found that only eight percent or P257,858,561.36 out of the P3,341,618,086.95 local development fund was used.

This translates to 27 projects behind schedule, 18 have lapsed with liquidated damages, 16 projects have been suspended and nine out of these 16 projects have been recommended for termination.

The COA said non-implementation or delayed implementation of plans, programs, and activities (PPAs) impedes the delivery of services, may render the programs irrelevant, and would pile up the workload of implementing agencies.

Unused allocations intended for these projects also end up tied up in the bank because these are deposited in high-yield savings, instead of being used so the public may be able to realize benefits of government projects.

“Ultimately, this si-tuation could negatively impact on the efficiency of the city government towards the achievement of local development goals,” the COA said in its memorandum addressed Mayor Benjamin Magalong, select department heads, and the city council.

In the exit conference between concerned city officials and the COA, reasons cited for the partial implementation of PPAs for 2023 and those that have been carried over from previous years are, the project is not feasible, bid process not completed due to delayed submission of program of work, returned to the city council for amendment of project title, no available project site, no program of work yet, failed bidding or rebidding, insufficient funds, boundary and right of way disputes, and overlap with other projects on the same site.

The COA said delay in the implementation or even the termination of projects can be avoided if there is a thorough consultation with stakeholders in the formulation of PPA.

“The feasibility and manageability of every PPA should be considered and settled during analysis of priorities by the Local Planning and Development Council in order to make certain that only doable and implementable PPAs within the budget year are included in the local development plan,” the COA said.

The COA further suggested for the Local Finance Committee and the City Planning and Deve-lopment Office to institute monitoring and evaluation measures to ensure that PPAs are on track, and for the city government to consider hiring job order employees to assist implementing departments like the City Environment and Parks Management Office, City Engineering Office, and City Buildings and Architecture Office in the preparation of program of work.

City Administrator and Bids and Awards Committee for Infrastructure chair Bonifacio dela Peña said concerned city officials have committed during their exit conference with the COA that the Cepmo, CEO, and CBAO have been reminded to follow the timeline in the implementation of PPAs.

He said the delays found by the COA covers 2023 and prior years but for 2024, all PPAs have been carefully prepared.

Dela Peña added most of the terminated PPAs are funded by the national government, which is strict when it comes to adherence to project timetable.

Some of these projects are the Athletic Bowl youth center and the Wright Park multipurpose buildings.

Also recommended for termination of project contract is the Irisan multipurpose building but the city government appealed for the Department of Public Works and Highways to reconsider the recommendation.

Dela Peña said the city will have to allot funds to complete other national government-funded projects as the remaining budget for these projects have not been released by the DPWH after the inspectorate team found that the contractor have incurred slippages and the program of work has not been complied with.

In the case of the Athletic Bowl youth center, dela Peña said the city government will amend the program of work where to fit the budget allotted by the city government, some components will be made of steel, instead of majority of the structure made of concrete.

Dela Peña also admitted that an adverse finding of the COA gives a negative impression about the efficiency by which the LGU expends public funds, but he maintained that delays or termination of PPA is due to their insistence that projects should be of superior quality. This claim is however, negated by inspectorate reports of high slippages.