"The scales should always be tilted in favor of the Filipino people."
Early this week, the House Committee on Rules held the second hearing on the alleged irregularities in the Proposed 2019 national budget. It was discovered during the hearing that more than P37 billion were bid out for three consultancy contracts with the Department of Transportation. According to news reports, this P37 billion was part of the P168-billion fund of the DOTr obligated to the Department of Budget Procurement Service for bidding purposes.
The consultancy contracts were for the big-ticket railway projects— the Philippine National Railways South Long Haul Projects of the North-South Railway Project, with P14.3 billion for its project management consultancy. The P14.3 billion management consultancy contract was signed with the China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co. Ltd. Consortium of China who won the bidding. The Metro Manila Subway Phase 1 bid out two general consultancy contracts in the amount of P11.7 billion each. It is reported that the Consultancy contracts here were awarded to a Japanese consortium named OCGlobal which is composed of six Japanese firms.
We acknowledge the technical expertise and experience of foreign consultants, in general. Perhaps in certain areas, they possess capabilities that we still need to learn. That being said, our administration should invest in scholarship and training programs and send our talented pool of local engineers and professionals so that they can apply their knowledge in the Philippines. The practice of engaging foreign consultants has been observed by our government for many years. We are concerned that we might have developed a reliance on foreign consultants to the extent that we simply accept their advice without considering the value of our own inputs.
We would like to think that the DOTr first tapped into our local pool of talents before hiring foreign consultants. We understand that engaging foreign consultants might be part of loan or grants, but perhaps this requirement is onerous for us. For one thing, engaging foreign consultants involves such an excessive and unreasonable amount of money. Who vets the qualifications of these consultants? Have they worked on projects located in places where the lay of the land is same, or at least comparable to the Philippines? Are their services worth the money? Reports from the Commission on Audit were said to point to the lack of transparency.
The procurement process is primarily handled by the DBM Procurement Service. It is possible that the budget of many of our government programs and projects are similarly bloated due to allocations such as those for pricey consultancy contracts.
We must look into this issue further. While the current administration is pressed on curbing corruption, ensuring fiscal transparency and developing our economy through infrastructure programs, these discoveries are counter-productive to the government’s targets.
The 2019 National Budget is soon to be passed. Nonetheless, we continue our investigation on these irregularities including the possible excessive fees for government consultancy contracts, not only in infrastructure but in other government projects. I call on our fellow government officials to scrutinize contracts in their agencies prior to bidding and implementation. We must bear in mind that every peso the government wastes on foreign services that are of questionable necessity is a peso taken from each one of us. The scales should always be tilted in favor of the Filipino people. To us, that is non-negotiable.