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Rough Cuts | COA as player in ‘white elephant’ projects

Should the Commission on Audit (COA) be considered a significant player in the perpetuation of the so-called “white elephant” projects of government? We are asking this question because the COA is supposed to be the guardian and watchdog in the efficient utilization of government resources.

From where we are perched, we see the COA as a tacit participant in the notoriously skillful heist of government funds by some officials tasked to implement projects funded by the taxes paid by the people. And why are we saying that? It is because there are so many big ticket government infrastructure projects that have components that are included though their supposed use can be done away with.

We will just take certain projects as example of the COA’s apparent approval for acceptance without looking into whether some parts of the projects are necessary as these were presented to be.

We are referring to some overpasses constructed in different districts of Davao City like the ones in Mintal and in Calinan. Each of the two overpasses has elevators. Based on inquiries we have made from dealers and agents of lift equipment, each unit could cost the government about P4 million or more. In the case of the Mintal overpass we noted it has two elevators. In Calinan it only has one.

However, since the overpasses were completed and apparently turned over and accepted we have yet to see that the lifts being used by the people who are supposed to be served by these elevators. The same situation is obtaining in the Calinan overpass. And we assume there are also overpasses in the other areas of the city with elevators as part of the projects.

We have no doubt that the intention of the inclusion of elevators in the overall overpass projects in the areas we have mentioned here is noble. We know very well that the elderly and those with physical challenges, as well as those people who are carrying with them heavy load like market products for sale or being procured, and school children with huge backpacks, are the ones targeted to be served by the elevators.

How come that until now the equipment still remain boxes of steel cold as they are and haven’t had the opportunity to carry people as these are intended for?

Has not any member of the COA made inspections of the overpass projects and check on the infrastructures condition as well as monitor the level of its use by the people? May be if none of the agency’s inspectors had the chance of inspecting the projects even when these were supposed to get the agency’s confirmation for acceptability, maybe now is the time they have to do the actual visit to the sites.

And they should not give prior notice to the implementing agencies or even the barangay officials where the overpasses are constructed in order that they get to see the projects not being “window-dressed.”

That is, that the implementing agencies or the barangay officials concerned might have the chance of making the elevators functional and allow their use by the people on the schedule of the COA inspection.

Considering the number of years that the elevators have been lying idle – may be about three years already – perhaps the COA can compute whether the projects have been able to attain its desired return on investment (ROI).

Now, if the COA will remain adamant in doing its mandate, then it can easily be considered a dominant player in the perpetuation of the wasting of government resources invested in projects that have ended up “white elephants.”
Would not the COA’s continued inaction a major dereliction of duty? Sure it is.

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