COA faults DOTr for MRT mess, delayed release of driver's licenses

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2018 04:51 PM

Commuters wait in line to ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) during morning rush hour on Feb. 20, 2018. Dondi Tawatao, Reuters

MANILA - The Commission on Audit (COA) has faulted the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for long queues and overcrowding of passengers at MRT stations caused by a delayed expansion project as it sought P1.296-billion in damages from a Chinese firm for the late delivery of train coaches.

In its 2017 audit report on the DOTr, government auditors said revenue operations of 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) procured from Chinese company Dalian Co Ltd for P3.759 billion have been delayed for 345 days- or nearly a year- as of December 31, 2017 from its scheduled delivery date.

State auditors said this is equivalent to an estimated liquidated damage amounting to P1.296 billion due to glitches in power supply, signaling system compatibility and weight issues.

The COA said such delay in the delivery of new trains supposed to ease MRT congestion caused overcrowding woes to persist. 

“As a result, long queues and overcrowding of passengers in Metro Rail Transit stations were not cushioned, thus affecting the welfare of the riding public and contributing to the decline in passenger ridership,” the COA said. 

It cited a 20 percent decline in ridership over the last five years. 

The COA also noted other problems such as the lack of an onboard Automatic Train Protector in LRVs, a part of the signaling system that connects train coaches to the control center. 

There is also the impending need to upgrade the MRT's ancillary system to accommodate additional LRVs. This was supposed to increase the train system's line capacity from a 3-car train configuration to a 4-car train configuration at a 2.5-minute headway ancillary system. 

The audit agency also noted that while train removals and passenger unloading were highest in 2016, service interruptions peaked in 2017.

In the report, the DOTr agreed to impose the liquidated damages on the delays of Dalian and to continue efforts in addressing glitches in MRT operations. 

State auditors also expressed doubts on the legality and propriety of the contract for the negotiated procurement for the MRT's maintenance service provider, the overhaul of 43 LRVs, and the total replacement of the signaling system.

They also noted the non-submission of a valid joint venture agreement for government's maintenance contract with South Korean firm Busan Universal Rail Inc (BURI), resulting in the suspension of payments to BURI amounting to P978.245 million.

BURI had served as MRT's maintenance provider but its contract was terminated in November over worsening problems at the train line. 

DELAY IN THE RELEASE OF DRIVER'S LICENSES TOO 

Government auditors again raised this year the issue of delayed procurement and delivery of driver’s licenses, validation stickers, and plate year tags. 

The report said there were 2,498,144 unissued driver’s licenses, 1,216,569 unissued validation stickers and 1,506,116 unissued plate year tags for motorists.

The shortage of driver’s licenses was due to the number of new applicants, delayed and extended procurement, and intermittent internet connection in various offices of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

The COA recommended the use of private printers instead of just relying on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the National Printing Office and APO Production Unit Inc.

Government auditors also flagged the delayed implementation of public utility vehicle rationalization and modernization projects as only 15.54 percent of the total P569.477 million budget, or P88.510 million, have been transferred so far to implementing agencies, mostly due to lack of supporting documents.

The DOTr agreed with the COA's recommendation to fast-track the release of funds for the project. 

Government auditors also ordered the LTO to issue 76 dashboard cameras costing P6.84 million and 386 alcohol breath analyzers worth P14.976 million to recipient LTO patrol vehicles and officers.