The independent minority bloc of the House of Representatives said Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya must explain why his department failed to build comfort rooms in train stations, ports and airports under its P351-million “Kayo ang Boss Ko” toilet improvement project.
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the bloc, said the group led by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez would file a resolution Wednesday asking the appropriate House committes to subject Abaya to a Question Hour to explain his department’s failure—as documented by a Commission on Audit report.
“This is not only anomalous, but also deplorable,” De la Cruz told The Standard.
“We can’t have funding for basic services and yet this government has poured in a lot of money for such a huge project. We want to know where did the money go,” De la Cruz added.
De la Cruz said the CoA report showed yet another case of Aquino administration’s lack of malasakit or compassion for the people, the President’s avowed “bosses.”
In light of the CoA findings, De la Cruz said Abaya should resign.
The Jan. 7 CoA report said the Department of Transportation and Communications under Abaya failed to build comfort rooms for all of its attached agencies under the toilet facilities improvement project, despite the availability of funds since 2012.
KBK, a foreign-assisted project, was named after a favorite motto used by President Aquino to suggest that the people are his ultimate boss.
The Jan. 7 audit report said the construction of new restrooms and the rehabilitation of old ones have been delayed, suspended or terminated or declared failed bids because of complicated contract details.
Because of this failure, women shared the same facilities with men in several train stations and Land Transportation Office branches, and persons with disabilities were left with no option but to use regular restrooms, the CoA said.
Also as a result, the transacting public had to bear the inconvenience of long toilet queues at the DoTC agencies, including the LTO, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Manila International Airport Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority, Metro Rail Transit Line 3, Philippine Ports Authority, Cebu Ports Authority, Philippine National Railways and Light Rail Transit Authority.
“The government may be left with an unfinished or uncompleted toilet project as a result of terminated contracts which could not be used by the intended beneficiaries and ultimately caused wastage of government funds,” the audit report read.
The audit agency noted that the funds for the KBK project were originally earmarked for the improvement of airport facilities.
The P351.86-million toilet project ran into problems because of a DoTC policy to save money by favoring bulk orders, the CoA said.
The DoTC should have invited local contractors and suppliers to build toilets for regional or provincial offices, instead of choosing only one construction firm per region, it said.
“Most of the contracts for the civil works and goods should have been completed or delivered before end Dec. 31, 2014. However, the contracts for civil works were far behind target. Majority of the contractors for the civil works requested for a suspension or [had] already suspended [work] due to delays in the delivery of phenolic boards and granite counter tops,” CoA said.
CoA said the KBK budget should be remitted to the Bureau of Treasury, and contracts that were terminated will need to wait for another budget allocation because the original budget has already expired or been forfeited.
“Since the toilet project is a basic necessity of the riding and transacting public, the department should have considered the most practical and easy procurement scheme to avoid delays,” the audit agency said.
The Palace said Abaya should be given an opportunity to explain what happened to the toilet improvement project before action is taken against him.
“CoA allows concerned agencies to submit comments or explanations pertaining to audit findings, then assesses whether such response is satisfactory or adequate,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a text message to The Standard, in reaction to its story.
Abaya said Monday he will stay on the job despite mounting calls that he be fired, and the latest audit report about the KBK project.
Lawmakers and various groups have pressed Abaya to resign over his failure to improve deteriorating commuter train services and his approval of questionable maintenance contracts that critics said made matters worse.
“The DoTC is trying to show that we are slowly rectifying sins of the past. Consumers have the right to demand better services,” Abaya said, admitting that only 36 to 45 of the 73 MRT coaches are operational.
Despite public anger at the poor train and other public transport services, President Aquino last week said he would not fire Abaya, the president of his ruling Liberal Party.
The Abakada party-list group said the audit report showed that it was time Abaya accounted for all the funds that his department gets.
“The successive questionable transactions of the DoTC must no longer be ignored,” the group said in a statement. With Sandy Araneta
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