COA questions P1.3-B 'donation' to UNDP for free wi-fi program

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2019 10:47 AM

Department of Information and Communications Technology. Patrick Roque/Creative Commons

MANILA - The Commission on Audit questioned the P1.362 billion contract entered into by the Department of Information and Communications Technology with the United Nations Development Programme, which seemed like the Philippine government agency is handing out a “donation” to the international agency.

State auditors noted that the DICT’s Pipol Konek or free nationwide wi-fi project lacked documentation that will prove that the agency did not have the capacity to undertake the project on its own.

It was also noted in the Financing Agreement between the UNDP and the DICT that ownership of equipment, supplies and other property was transferred to UNDP.

“In essence, therefore, the contribution of P1,362,084,618.28 by DICT constitutes donation to UNDP. And because the funds are now part of UNDP’s financial resources and are its assets and ownership of equipment, supplies and other property financed from the contribution vests in UNDP, it appears now that Pipol Konek becomes entirely a project of the UNDP and not of DICT,” the COA report said.

The audit team stressed that while Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access law allowed partnerships of the DICT with other sectors, it does not mean divestment of funds and properties.

The audit report also noted that even if the UNDP also extended financial assistance worth P29 million in the form of advisory services and technology, the DICT was also obliged to pay UNDP a total of P105.723 million service fee.

“Said fees could have been avoided and applied to project components for more live sites nationwide, had the department directly implemented the project as it did in previous years,” the COA report said.

The audit team required the DICT to submit an explanation that will prove the necessity of the agreement with the UNDP.

The DICT however explained to the auditors that even if it can undertake the procurement activities for the project, it had to re-strategize to address procurement issues and other challenges.

“The partnership with UNDP was a result of management plans and prerogative as shown on its approved Annual Procurement Plan that implementation of the Free Wi-Fi project will be outsourced,” the DICT told the auditors.

A copy of the report was received by the office of DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio, Jr. on June 28, 2019.

The full audit report can be downloaded from the COA website.