JUST how often do we hear of contractors, politicians and officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways conspiring for pie shares in every major infrastructure project? Open secrets about wheeler dealers and quid pro quo deals. They’re tales as old as time, true as they can be, somebody bent the rules unexpectedly. Ad nauseam.
After Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Chairman Dante Jimenez met with regional directors in Central Visayas, he disclosed to media a list of the most corrupt government agencies.
Almost naturally, the DPWH topped the list, followed by the Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Finance, under which are the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs. Tied at fourth are the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, and strangely the National Commission for Indigenous People.
The list is based on the number of complaints against the agencies in the period between March 7, 2018 and February this year.
Jimenez said the PACC received 807 complaints, 760 of them were verifiable. Twenty-nine complaints were endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman, 28 were approved by the commission en banc.
Eight complaints were dropped for lack of evidence.
The list comes at a time when the DPWH is in the middle of instituting reforms, particularly in anti-corruption efforts, in the last three years. Public Works Secretary Mark Villar had been pushing for the use of technology in monitoring the agency’s over 20,000 projects.
The DPWH had set up a geo-tagging software that allows quicker identification of ghost projects and inaccurate reporting. The program started in 2017, and is now in its final phase. To date, Villar said, around 30 percent of the over 20,000 projects have been geo-tagged. The agency hopes for a hundred percent tagging before the year ends.
The system, developed through the World Bank’s help, allows access to real-time visual images of the geographic coordinates where projects are supposedly undertaken.
It is impossible to fake, said Villar, since it uses real time photos fed by the satellite. This allows a more accurate measurement of ongoing projects, their progress or the lack of it.
While at that, the public should take note that one of the current administration’s top priorities is infrastructure, targeting an expenditure of P8 trillion to P9 trillion from 2017 to 2022.
The PACC figures on the ratio of complaints versus the trickle of those that were promptly followed through doesn’t quite show a citizenry so impassioned to dedicate real efforts in fighting corruption.
Perhaps, it helps to educate the public on how corruption is carried out on each stage of government transactions, so they can take initiatives from there in training more eyes to keep officials on their toes.
“That’s why I’m telling you, let’s help each other. We’re all countrymen. It’s not true what they’re saying that there hasn’t been any change. There have been changes. But nothing will happen if the public doesn’t complain. You need to report corruption. If you’re afraid for your safety, we have witness protection,” Jimenez said.