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EDITORIAL: Junk Post-Audit

There is nothing new about the pronouncement of President Duterte that corruption is rampant in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). That agency has long been rotten, while some of its officials have become filthy rich.

Neither is the confirmatory statement of the Commission on Audit (COA) that about 1.31 billion pesos is lost by DPWH due to the malpractices attributable to contractors, the favorite escape goats especially in reference to public works. Missing in the COA findings is the participation of elected government officials, project engineers, auditors, checkers as well as members of the bids and awards committee. In fairness to the members of the Lower House who have been in the midst of pork barrel scandals, corruption is true even among local officials particularly the LGU executives.

The much publicized drive against graft and corruption would lead to nowhere. To begin with the frantic formation of a taskforce by DPWH secretary Mark Villar in response to the president’s indictment of the department’s shenanigans is obviously diversionary. It does not guarantee at all to curb deep seated irregularities, particularly in reference to expropriation of private properties for public use or purpose. Experts know that formation of a task force or referral to a special body is the easiest strategy to end an issue or divert public attention.

Corruption in government service has already become endemic. Irregularities are committed from top to bottom. Unwinding the web of corruption now has become more complicated notwithstanding the freedom of information, the exercise of which has mutated to a mere privilege and not a right.

Obtaining information about suspected malpractices in government service has become more tedious, given the admission by the Ombudsman that the existence of his office itself is suffering from constitutional, legal and logical infirmities.

The Office of the Ombudsman is a constitutional institution for which reason impeachment is the only process available to remove him. Given however the statements by Samuel Martires himself, there is no need for outside initiative. He has self-impeached. Self-castration might be the more appropriate term.Remedial measures have therefore to be devised. Otherwise the avalanche of graft and corruption would seem unstoppable.

Several decades ago government projects were pursued by administration. Contractors had no participation at all. Irregularities then mostly consisted only of payroll padding, ghost employees and ghost deliveries. They were easier to detect. The layers of corruption were less intricate and tracing the trail of graft was easier.

Today with most of the projects being awarded through the powerful bids awards committees, more corrupt practices have been concocted. A more subtle yet largely corrupt practice was born. Bids and awards committee members often connive with the bidders, while bidders conspire with each other to the disadvantage of public interest. Sometimes committee members inject new requirements just to please favor contractors.

The most serious of all the anomalies contrived are those linked to pork barrels, which is widespread not only among district legislators but even among LGU officials. Worst, elected officials or aspiring politicians deal with contractors and in the process demand for cash advances involving projects yet to be built, the amount of which allegedly averages 40 percent of the project cost.

Once elected, these wily politicians become indebted to the contractors who assumed their campaign expenses. In some instances the elected officials who reneged to their commitment became targets for liquidation. This practice is for the underworld. But the swindler and swindled are no different from underworld characters, with the likes of drug pushers, gambling lords and smugglers etc.,

That is why many killings remain unsolved. Go back to sanity. Return to simple approaches, including implementation of public works by administration, which though not immune to corruption is at least less evil. Better, revert to pre-audit because as experts assert under a 100 percent COA post audit “, there is a great DISADVANTAGE or cost penalty to the government—LOSSES of BILLIONS upon BILLIONS of PESOS in public funds from unhampered and hence unabated CORRUPTION.”

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