DPWH promises fewer infra delays caused by lack of project studies

DPWH

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said on Thursday that it has improved its processes for determining the feasibility of infrastructure works, which were found to have contributed to delays in a number of projects.

The DPWH was queried at the Senate Finance Committee on findings by the Commission on Audit (CoA) that 3,440 infrastructure projects did not proceed or were delayed by the failure to clearly establish feasibility or technical viability beforehand.

Senator Francis N. Tolentino said at the hearing, citing CoA, that “the DPWH was not able to cite the technical viability of projects during the feasibility and preliminary engineering study, which resulted in delayed completion and non-implementation of 3,440 infrastructure projects worth at least P245 billion.”

The auditors, he added, also concluded that the DPWH completed only one out of 12 foreign-funded projects worth a combined P1.151 billion.

“I can assure the good Senator that under my watch we would have a stricter planning process,” Public Works Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan said. “Other than the central office, we also have planning services at the district and regional levels.”

Mr. Tolentino made the remarks in the context of a DPWH request for more funding for support functions like conducting project studies.

“You are asking for an increase of your STO (support to operations) budget for fiscal year 2023 and one of the reasons for the increase is a P14.8 billion increase in the budget for the conduct of full-scale feasibility studies,” Mr. Tolentino said.

“I can assure you that the budget we are asking now for preliminary feasibility study and preliminary detailed engineering will substantially address the preparation of our projects in 2023, even at the district level,” Mr. Bonoan replied.

“For 2022, I think the budget proposal for preliminary feasibility study and preliminary detailed engineering was actually P15.82 billion but what has come out of the 2022 budget was a mere P1.17 billion,” he added, “but this level of investment is necessary in order to provide the necessary budget for our operating offices to make the preparations.”

The funding will support staffing for planning services at the district and regional levels, he added.

As for the delays in completing and implementing projects in 2021, Mr. Bonoan said: “I understand that there had been some intervening reasons such as projects included in the 2021 budget that were for later release, and this is up for the approval of the Office of the President. It took some time for these to be processed and approved.”

Mr. Bonoan described the process for making even small changes to project contracts funded by the General Appropriations Act involved preliminary work at the district level and then approval by the Office of the Secretary, adding that such modifications were needed because “many of the projects were incorporated in the budget without preliminary (studies).”

“It took some time for the department to make the necessary preliminary engineering (studies) that are needed for actual contract execution,” he added.

Mr. Tolentino said that he has received reports that some district engineers would rely or delegate the function of planning to contractors, thus making the projects “contractor-initiated,” without regard for the real needs of the local government units or the field planning office of the DPWH. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan