DBM says didn't authorize DICT’s transfer of P1.1-B to MMDA for broadband project

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2022 02:17 AM

MANILA - The Department of Budget and Management said Tuesday it did not authorize the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s transfer of P1.1 billion to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority for the implementation of a national broadband project under the previous administration.

Under Section 78 of the General Appropriations Act’s general provisions, the DBM should authorize or approve modifications to the budget from one allotment class to another, from an operating unit to another, and within a special purpose fund, according to DBM Acting Director Perpetual Judea Quiazon.

“Did the DBM issue any consent, any documentation as to this transfer to the MMDA?” Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza asked during the joint hearing of the House Committees on Good Government and Public Accountability, and the Information and Communications Technology.

“Based on records of the bureau concerned or DICT, none po. There is no authority for the transfer issued by the DBM,” Quiazon replied.

Asked about the matter, former DICT Acting Secretary Emmanuel Caintic told the panel that as far as he can remember, they coordinated with the DBM.

Daza noted that the DICT pushed through with the transfer despite an adverse opinion from its legal department.

But Caintic insisted that the agency’s move had a precedent, and that he received advice from an incumbent MMDA official then that “it was ok”. He also sought DOJ’s opinion, but there was no response, he added.

“The Free Wifi law allows for DICT to coordinate with national government agencies and LGUs for the implementation of the free wifi,” Caintic said.

“I was given legal advice na ‘yung MMDA has the capability to do it. Ang aking hinihingi hindi ICT aspect, ang paghuhukay, the civil works. The civil works is gonna be a tremendous project management challenge sa Maynila. Kaya ‘yun ng MMDA,” he added.

Daza also questioned DICT’s move to supposedly use part of the free public wifi funds amounting to P500 million for the national broadband project.

“We cannot make an audit conclusion as of now because all of the documentation we required from DICT is not yet submitted to us. But your line of questioning, putting aside the documentation, it is technical malversation,” COA’s Job Aguirre told the panel.

“This project is not just illegal, unnecessary and it may be a ghost project. Because there is already a free fiber optic running along the EDSA MRT3 line from Quezon City all the way to Pasay… It’s not gonna cost P1.1 billion as you say it will because there is not much work to be done,” Daza added.

House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chairperson San Jose del Monte Rep. Florida Robes disclosed that Interior Secretary and former MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos favors returning the transferred funds to the DICT. MMDA Deputy Chairman Francisco San Juan Jr. said they are not objecting to the return of the funds, but the matter should also be thoroughly reviewed.
 
“After hearing this information… this needs to be reviewed thoroughly. And as far as if we are willing to give back the funds to DICT, then it would be better that the agencies concerned, plus the recommendation from the committee will be taken all together to come up with a win-win solution for everybody… We are not objecting to returning the funds,” he said.

“Dapat lang na mabigyan din ng karampatang discipline or sanctions ang involved dito. Not just a mere returning of the fund probably,” COOP NATCCO Party List Felimon Espares said.

The committees are scheduled to resume the hearing on Dec. 13.

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