The Transportation Department said it is accelerating spending on infrastructure projects, services and programs this year.
“I am setting a higher internal target for DOTr so as to pressure ourselves to perform better. If the Department of Budget and Management sets a 72-percent target on budget spending, ours will be 80 percent,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement.
The transportation chief also clarified observations that the agency only managed to spend 18 percent of its budget in 2017. DOTr has a total budget of P53.3 billion this year.
Tugade said most of the projects had just finished bidding and procurement processes and would start construction and implementation soon. It is only then that actual spending could begin, he said.
Tugade’s statement came after Senate finance committee chairman Loren Legarda highlighted DOTr’s underspending of its budget.
“Government processes take time. There are procedures and submissions and they could get frustrating at times, but these processes are necessary to ensure that there are no abuses. But I assure you that our projects are on track, even ahead of schedule” Tugade said.
Tugade said the P11.5 billion that the DOTr returned to the National Treasury in December 2016 was a result of underspending by the previous administration.
He said when the new DOTr administration took over in July 2016, a total of P19.2-billion funds remained unobligated. In six months, the agency managed to obligate and download around P7 billion to projects and other attached agencies, a move allowed by the Commission on Audit.
“There simply wasn’t enough time. We were given six months to spend what our predecessor failed to spend and government processes are not cut out for that. Procurement alone can take months and months, and even years,” Tugade said.
The Transportation chief also reacted to claims that the DOTr had not started any infrastructure project this year.
He said among the projects that broke ground since he took over were the Bicol International Airport, LRT-1 Cavite Extension Project and the LRT-2 East Extension Project.
The Communications Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management system was also fast tracked and is due for full implementation by the end of the year. At least eight airports are also currently being equipped with night-landing capabilities. The LRT Common Station Project is also scheduled for groundbreaking within the month.
The DOTr assured the public that proper accounting and reporting would be made to ensure the appropriate utilization of public funds.
“There’s no need to worry. We will get these projects done. But this time, we will make sure everything will be done properly,” Tugade said.