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Recto asks why COA-flagged PITC got BFP's projects

Recto asks why COA-flagged PITC got BFP's projects

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has asked why a government-controlled trading corporation was allowed to handle construction projects of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) as state auditors flagged undelivered projects worth P3.264 billion.

Recto said on Monday that asking the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) — an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry that specializes in procuring items for government offices — to construct fire stations is like mandating the Health Secretary to build flyovers.

“To use firemen’s parlance, the delay has reached ‘general alarm,’” Recto said in a statement.

“The next question is, why would an import corporation under the trade department be given taxpayer funds for a project which is infrastructure in nature? I am asking this because unfamiliarity with the work could be the reason for the delay. It is like asking (Secretary Francisco) Duque to build flyovers,” he added.

Last September, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that aside from funds transferred by the BFP to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Procurement Service, P3.264 billion were also allocated to the PITC in 2019.

The projects handled by PITC that remain undelivered according to COA included the following:

• fire trucks, aerial ladders, and other equipment (P999.7 million)
• 11 fire stations for Regions 1, 3, 4A, 4B, CAR, NCR (P104.8 million)
• fire trucks from the Fire Code revenue (P1.5 billion)
• 87 fire stations from the Fire Code revenue (P787.5 million)

“Various funds transferred to PS-DBM and PITC totaling P4,309,079,407.58 for the procurement of supplies, materials, equipment and infrastructure projects remained undelivered and outstanding for several years,” COA said in its audit report.

“Thus, depriving the agency of the immediate use of the items which are crucial in the discharge of the agency’s operation and unnecessarily making the fund idle in the custody of the PS-DBM and PITC,” it added.

For to Recto, these issues may only be the “tip of the iceberg” as this is not the first time PITC failed to deliver materials or equipment needed by government offices like BFP.

In 2019, PITC’s was called after it only delivered around 10 percent of all the equipment procured by the Philippine National Police (PNP) dating back to 2016. In that report, COA said that PNP has already transferred P1.347 billion of its funds to PITC, but the amount of items delivered was only at P137.4 million.

COA again PITC recently, after it was revealed that not all of the items in the previous audit report was delivered in 2019 — only P311.06 million of the P1.347 billion.

The commission said that the timely delivery could have helped both BFP and PNP perform their mandates more effectively.

“This is unfair to the men and women of the fire bureau who respond to emergencies in minutes, yet have to wait for years for the equipment they badly need,” Recto said.  “Funding for the 87 came from Fire Code Fees in the amount of P787.5 million, plus the P104.8 million for 11 stations from the General Appropriations Act of 2017. This was all transferred to PITC.”

“But still, this policy question remains: Why would a DTI import trading corporation, chaired by the Trade secretary, be in the construction business?  Ilan pa bang mga proyekto ang nakatengga sa PITC? Ilan din ba ang utang ng DBM Procurement Service sa mga ahensyang nagbigay ng perang pambili ng mga kagamitan?” he added.

(But still, this policy question remains: Why would a DTI import trading corporation, chaired by the Trade secretary, be in the construction business?  How many projects are still pending with the PITC?  How much is the debt of the DBM Procurement Service with agencies who gave them funds to purchase items?) [ac]