Think tank seeks bidding process reform to prevent DPWH corruption

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 22 2020 04:42 PM

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MANILA – A think tank on Thursday warned about the dangers of sole bidders in government contracts amid allegations of corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“In the absence of price competition between contractors, the public is not assured on whether or not the price of contracts is actually fair or is actually reasonable or is actually the lowest cost,” said lawyer Terry Ridon, convenor of Infrawatch PH.

Under the Government Procurement Reform Act, sole bidders are allowed to proceed with the procurement as long as they are technically, legally and financially qualified.

“I think this is the first reform that should be undertaken by the government to making sure that there will always be competition,” Ridon told ANC’s “Matters of Fact.”

“And if there's no competition, the government should be able to negotiate hard to make sure that the best price, the lowest price given particular quality, is ensured in every government project.”

Through successful competitive bidding, the government will be able to save money, Ridon said.

One case study he cited is a P400-million contract from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), where 15 bidders participated in the process.

The government-owned and controlled corporation was able to save P100 million due to competitive bidding, he said.

Meanwhile, low-ranking officials also make money through bureaucratic red tape by delaying the approval of permits.

High-ranking officials, on the other hand, receive kickbacks from big-ticket projects at the national level, Ridon said.

The think tank also believes that an anti-corruption task force created by DPWH would require independent views to ensure its findings will be made with integrity.

While creating an internal task force is a step towards the right direction, it must have independent experts to call anomalies as they see it, Ridon said.

“It is important for transparency and integrity to be seen in this task force in order for the public to view this as a credible undertaking by [DPWH] Secretary [Mark] Villar,” he added.

Ridon noted that the Palace had expressed reservation on not having independent views because it would be difficult to look into the workings of your colleagues.

“It is something that is really concerning particularly because of the culture in the Philippines that we have, which we call pakikisama (camaraderie),” he said.

The public works and highways chief earlier this week created a task force made up of 5 officials to investigate fellow executives and employees after President Rodrigo Duterte criticized the agency again for corruption.

This, after senators flagged around P345.25-billion in lump sum allocations lodged in the DPWH's proposed 2021 budget.

Some lawmakers and officials of the department also allegedly ask for "kickbacks" from contractors that win projects from the agency.

The DPWH is asking for a P667.32-billion budget for next year, one of the biggest among executive departments.