BUILD, Build, Build is super okay. It has significant impact on the economic well-being of our country. That’s the plus side. The downside is almost every contract is attended by corruption. It is so clear that in many infrastructure contracts, the bidding selection process is most likely influenced by a senator, a congressman or a government big shot.
All presidents, past and present weren’t successful enough to stop corruption in the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue and several other agencies. Duterte “failed” in his anti-corruption drive. The “cancer” is spreading. This is what is funny. I read last week in a national daily that there’s an incoming probe by the House of Representatives on the questionable procurement of laptops for public school teachers. Maybe, the upper house can do the same. You can scratch your head if both houses can investigate their own colleagues who are publicly known to be knocking down 20 to 30 percent on their countrywide development funds. It’s public knowledge. It is an open secret, you may exclaim. What about them?
I remember in the early years of his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte said that there are many people involved in the anomalous biddings of government projects. He said then fake bidding is frequently done. He even mentioned that arrangements were tackled on golf courses. In the province, it’s done on restaurants which must not be far from the government agency where the actual bidding will be conducted. Let’s explain further. Formal bidding happens in the agency office, say for example at a district office of Department of Public and Highways, National Irrigation Agency, Department of Education etc. etc. In most cases, the “sindikato” already conducted their own “bidding” and the winning bidder is already pinpointed and including the price of the winning bid. The arrangement is for the pre-arranged winner to set aside three percent of the total package cost to be equitably distributed among the designated participants. “Pamalengke,” is their term for it.
Let’s be graphic for easier understanding how things were done and still being done with impunity despite repeated expose. The procurement law mandates that all government projects are to be subjected to competitive bidding, and that biddings of projects are to be advertised on newspapers of general circulation and on the PHILGEPS, the government website. Having done that, the concerned agency will start selling bid documents, and the amount will depend on the project cost. Now the participants will be known and who will be participating in the bidding. The work starts for the “sindikato” here.
The pinpointed winning bidder has his money ready for distribution to the bidding participants. The three percent will now be distributed equitably and everybody will be happy on their way to the bank. They got their “pamalengke,” but not yet the people from the regional and district offices whose sticky fingers must be greased, or else. That’s how they do it folks. But when confronted they will feign innocence and make impressions they are lily white.
When you come to think of it, why most government infrastructure projects are substandard, it is because every project is marked with corruption. In that rigged bidding, the congressman in the district has to be given his demanded share. It is a separate story if the one involved is a senator. It is bigger if he or she made the follow up to the Department of Budget and Management. That’s only the first instance. There is a long list of people who will assert what’s due them based on what’s euphemistically called SOP (standard operating procedure). Maybe 10 or 15 percent for congressman, 5 or 10 percent on the head of the agency, small percentages on every office like quality control, resident auditor, cashier and few others who will be given balato. You minus the VAT of 12 percent and the allowable 10 percent contractor’s profit, you have now ladies and gentlemen how much went into that road project. Two years later you will see cracks and cratered.