Poe on DU30 solution to graft, red tape: We must bid, bid, bid for ‘Build, Build, Build’

January 30, 2018 - 1:21 PM
News5 file image of PNR trains. The PNR's South Line, which runs through some of the country's poorest areas, is one of the priorities for financing in the infrastructure program. (image from video by Gerald de la Pena, News5

MANILA – Delays in the procurement process can be remedied, as the anti-red tape law and similar measures mandate, but problems of delays and corruption cannot be short-circuited by altogether scuttling the usual bidding process, Sen. Grace Poe has warned.

The senator made the comment after President Rodrigo Duterte said the bidding processes are easily rigged anyway and can either cause undue delays or swell the cost to taxpayers of vital projects.

He would rather the government get a swiss challenge from the private sector for major projectsm Duterte said.

“Let us prioritize the removal of bottleneck in the bidding process because, as they say, we can only build, build, build, if we can bid, bid, bid,” Poe said in a statement.

“I welcome the initiative, expertise and participation of the private sector in submitting unsolicited proposals for big ticket items. On this however, I hope the government would observe a fair and reasonable swiss challenge procedure to get the best offer from other qualified contractors and eliminate the very same problem of collusion that has become commonplace in publicly bidded projects that the President seeks to eliminate,” the senator said.

The rationale of a stringent procurement law, according to Poe, “is to prevent corruption and enable the government to get the most bang for the buck. Unfortunately, our current laws have not effectively prevented corruption, instead, it only slowed down many legitimate projects.”

Procurement regulations need not be static, Poe stressed. “They should be constantly improved in the execution level, by harnessing best practice experiences and again transparency. The solution is to cut the red tape in the bidding for government projects. We should also ensure that the entire system will remain transparent.”

Ways to shorten the process, said Poe, can be found, and “we can even short-circuit the regulations to eliminate opportunities for corruption, for as long as this will not leave the people shortchanged with substandard projects. That should be the bottomline.”

This culture of constant innovation is also enshrined in the Anti Red Tape Act of 2007, which requires agencies to periodically measure the speed of service, and remove obstacles that cause delay, according to Poe.

She recalled how, in their appearances before the Senate, “both public and private officers have cited causes of delay outside procurement, from permitting issues to the cumbersome procedures in getting clearances from government regulators.”

Many of these complaints were acted upon at the policy level. For example, in the telecoms sector, there are faster benchmarks in permit approvals. The question, she added, is whether these are being followed.

The new TRAIN law, meanwhile, also addressed complaints by businessmen, big and small alike, by cutting BIR requirements, forms and procedures, Poe noted.

She backed moves to “collar and punish unscrupulous public officials who rig or tailor-fit bidding terms of reference for every project to favor contractors, as well as those other public works carpetbaggers who cause undue delays in the implementation of infrastructure projects by tendering ridiculously low bids, only to sell contracts won to legitimate bidders.”