30 DAP projects worth P29. 6 billion in limbo

By Chi Almario-Gonzalez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2014 04:11 AM | Updated as of Oct 23 2014 07:14 AM

Less than half of DAP projects completed

When the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was conceptualized, Budget Secretary Abad said, its main purpose was to “speed up public expenditure and catalyze economic growth.”

And when Abad faced a Senate Finance committee hearing in July in defense of DAP, he said the money was used for “fast-moving projects” that had immediate impact on the country’s economic health and well-being of Filipinos.

PDFs of COMPLETE, INCOMPLETE, ALMOST COMPLETED DAP Projects

But Malacanang insists the DAP pulled up the country’s Gross Domestic Product. It trumpeted that even the World Bank mentioned the DAP’s contribution to the economy in its 2012 quarterly report.

The March 2012 World Bank (WB) Quarterly Report stated, “In the fourth quarter (Q4), growth slightly improved at 3.7 percent... The government’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan was partially successful and contributed 1.3 percentage points (ppt) to GDP growth in Q4, up from 0.3 ppt in Q3.”

However, the same WB report clarified the DAP “was not enough to push growth up to the targeted level of around five percent.”

Use it or lose it

President Aquino, in his televised address defending the DAP last July, said he consulted his Cabinet members about letting go of budgeted projects that were slow-moving and in allowing these budgets to be pooled under DAP for projects that are quicker to implement.

“Our aim is to not prolong the implementation of projects. The Cabinet agreed, regarding their respective funds: Use it or lose it. If you cannot use the funds allotted for this year, clearly, those are savings,” Aquino said.

But many of the DAP projects were not completed within the one-year period. Worse, billions of pesos worth of projects under DAP have no status report.

In the DBM’s detailed DAP project list, P29.6 billion worth of project items have no report of actual output. In other words, it is not known if the projects were even implemented or if they exist.

“How can you say it stimulates the economy when many were not even accounted for?,” asked Rep. Neri Colmenares whose partlylist Bayan Muna challenged the DAP before the Supreme Court. “Di mo nga alam kung natuloy yung proyekto o hindi. DI mo nga ma-account kung saan pumunta, how can you say tumulong sa ekonomiya?”

The biggest DAP project item with no report of actual output was the P4.45-billion lump sum fund released for Priority Local Projects Nationwide for implementation by government-owned and controlled corporations, the Department of Education, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local government units (LGUs).

Another big-budgeted DAP project item that has no status report of implementation was the P4-billion Public-Private Partnership released for School Infrastructure Project Phase 2 under the Department of Education.

The P700-million Development Assistance to the Province of Quezon has no detailed list of projects for implementation and no status report.

Even the P104.7-million DAP funds released to the Commission on Audit (COA) that were supposed to be used for IT infrastructure and hiring of litigation experts have no listed actual output.

In fact, COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan had admitted before a Senate committee that part of the DAP funds was used to buy a service vehicle for one of the commissioners.

Three years in the making

If there are 34 completed DAP projects, there are 35 DAP project items that have not been completed or fully implemented.

For some projects this can be expected since, like the P10-billion NHA On-Site Development for Families Living Along Dangerous Areas, target completion takes more than the one-year period Malacanang wants for quick-moving projects.

But some projects are stalled by procurement and bidding process hitches and other similar problems.

One such case is the P100-million budget for office relocation of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS).

The fund was released to PIDS in 2011 but until now, its office remains housed in the old NEDA building in Makati.

PIDS Finance and Operating Vice President Andrea Agcaoili told the ABS-CBN investigative team that the plan was to relocate to a 2,580-square meter lot along Agham Road in Quezon City. 

The lot was bought from the National Housing Authority (NHA) at P83.8 million and was awarded to PIDS only in August 2013. The balance of P16.2 million, Agcaoili said, remains in the bank.

Agcaoli said the plan includes construction of a 5-storey building. She said the building will need a different funding.

When asked why no construction has yet started, Agcaoili said: “there are procurement problems.”

It has been reported that the lot sold by the NHA to PIDS is part of the area currently being occupied by the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC). The PCMC has blocked moves for their transfer to another location.

Show me the money

The construction of the E-library building of the House of Representatives, listed as a beneficiary of DAP in June 2012, is among the projects that have not yet been completed.

Under the DBM DAP project list, the E-library building project has no status report.

ABS-CBN visited the construction site and found that so far only the building shell has been built.

But House Speaker Sonny Belmonte told ABS-CBN, the construction of the E-library is not being funded under the DAP.

In a text message, Belmonte said: "It was never funded from DAP because we never got money from DBM. They withheld P215m from our budget which we could have converted to savings. We just rounded off our request to 250m but never got any money including the 215M withheld from us."

Under DBM records, P250 million was released and disbursed for the construction of the E-library.

If the money was released and supposedly used for the E-library construction and yet the Speaker insists the House did not use DAP funds, then where did the money go?

In July, Abad told ANC’s Headstart news program that the President approved the Speaker’s funding “request” to finish the E-library building.

“This was a request coming from the Speaker of the House and when he wrote us he said I have money but I do not have P45 million to complete it. So what he did was he returned part of the money and he said I’m returning to you this much but can you give me P250 (million) so I can finish this. If you look at the audit observation of COA they are telling us to finish this because the longer…this was started in 2009…the longer this is out there unfinished the whole thing deteriorates. You know this was an appeal from the Speaker of the House and wanting to be of help to them, the President said, ‘of course I will’,” Abad said.

Belmonte explained the E-library project began during the term of Speaker Prospero Nograles. The construction work was stopped and only resumed in the last two years.

"When l took over, among others, I thought it was in the wrong place obstructing the main grounds which l wanted to be clear of buildings. I also wanted to review the layout etc., and costing,” the Speaker said.

But Belmonte decided to push through with the project anyway because P70 million has been spent already for the foundation.

The SC has found such “cross-border” transfer of funds or reallocation of savings from one department to a separate department, unconstitutional. Malacanang has filed a motion for reconsideration before the SC.

It is curious to note that Abad said one of the reasons budget managers came up with DAP was to take “idle” funds from projects slowed down by bidding and procurement problems and transfer them to faster moving projects.

But it appears some funds reallocated to some DAP projects suffered similar fate.

When asked his opinion on DAP funds that have not been spent, economist Margarito Teves, former Finance Secretary, said: “it defeats the purpose of pump priming. It defeats the purpose of reallocating the savings.”

The DBM stopped the implementation of DAP months before the SC voted on petitions questioning its constitutionality.

In his December 2013 memorandum to the President, Abad recommended termination of DAP since it has “succeeded as a fiscal stimulus measure and reform intervention to plug leakages and inefficiencies in disbursements, speed up government spending and expand the economy.”

But was it really a success?

With only less than half of the target projects completed as of 2014 and with at least P29.6 billion worth of DAP projects unaccounted, how will we know if it worked?

“The mystery is not yet solved because we don’t know yet,” said Teves. “The audit has to show the money was spent that given year.”

The Commission on Audit (COA) said it is going to audit the use of DAP from 2011 to 2013.

U.P. Professor Leonora Briones, former National Treasurer, said an audit is the next move. “We have to check if the projects are there,” she said. - With reports from Gigi Grande and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News