Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian asked President Aquino to immediately sign a measure that will split into two entities the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which has become too big to be handled by one cabinet secretary.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker was referring to Senate Bill No. 2686 and House Bill No. 6198, both titled “Department of Information and Communications Technology Act of 2015”. The proposed measure will rename the DOTC Department of Transportation and create the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), transferring to it the communications functions of the current DOTC.
The Senate already adopted the House bill as an amendment to its version last month.
Gatchalian made the call amid the release of a Commission on Audit report saying the DOTC in 2014 spent P354.497 million on “consultancy services”, mostly under the office of DOTC Sec. Joseph Abaya.
“President Aquino should sign this proposed law as soon as the measure is transmitted. The DOTC is too big for one person to manage. A single person cannot handle both transportation woes and communications problems at the same time,” said Gatchalian, a senior vice chair of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development.
Gatchalian pointed out that the hiring of many consultants by the DOTC and its attached agencies with exorbitant consultancy fees is another good reason why the department should be broken into two departments.
“It is easy to hire consultants. But it is an entirely different story if these consultants are really needed and if they able to give sound advice on how to maintain the MRT and LRT lines,” said Gatchalian.
The COA report said the total amount of payment given to experts for consultation is the second biggest item in the agency’s maintenance and other operating expenses for 2014. The sum is around 2,000 percent higher than the P17.45 million spent for the same purpose by the agency under then-DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas III in 2012.
DOTC also spent P88 million on consultants in 2013, under Abaya’s management. The breakdown of the P354.497 million for “consultancy services” in 2014 is as follows, based on the COA report: DOTC-Office of the Secretary (DOTC-OSEC) – P352,974,921.89; Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) – P985,107.47; Land Transportation Office (LTO) – P536,845.47. The COA report said none of these agencies identified their consultants or the specific projects these consultants were hired for. It is also unclear how many consultants were paid.
Gatchalian pointed out that splitting the DOTC into a Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is expected to make the DOT more responsive to the problems hounding the mass transport system.
Recently, state auditors also discovered that contracts for toilet improvement projects in 10 attached agencies of the DOTC “proved to be disadvantageous.” COA said that the DOTC adopted a complicated procurement scheme, leading to the possible wastage of some P352 million.
The DOTC is also working with COA to resolve issues in the LTO’s plate standardization program. In December 2015, the LTO suspended the collection of fees for the replacement of old license plates, after COA issued a notice of disallowance.
Abaya, who replaced Roxas as DOTC chief in October 2012, has been heavily criticized over the country’s mass transportation problems, including the state of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the MRT3.
“These separation of functions and the creation of a new agency is now a necessity given the recurring monstrous traffic jams and the regular glitches in the MRT-LRT system coupled with text scams and snail-paced internet connection cannot be handled by one department secretary alone,” said Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)