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Rough Cuts | The DPWH and CEO must look into this

Last Thursday evening in the Sumbungan ng Bayan segment of the early evening newscast “24 Oras” of GMA 7, main anchor Mike Enriquez, a former boss of ours while we were still working with Radio Mindanao Network, talked of a bridge constructed by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in a town somewhere north of Luzon.

The bridge project was completed less than ten years ago with a budget of P65 million. But according to testimonies by residents in the area, and confirmed by officials of the irrigation agency of the government, the same bridge had been destroyed two times already. The last that the bridge was rendered impassable was some three years ago. Until now the span has remained unrepaired.

When Sumbungan staff confronted the NIA about the non-repair and the complaints of the town residents, their answer is that the agency is still waiting for the approval of the budget for repair it has been asking Congress.

Of course the NIA executives found it convenient to blame the weather, nature for that matter, for the series of destruction of the bridge. Yes, they have conveniently blamed nature and not their inability to look into the quality of the materials and workmanship of the contractor who built the bridge at an exorbitant cost.

We even doubt if the NIA ever sent technical people to inspect the contractor’s accomplishment on a per segment basis. We also believe that the irrigation agency did not even bother to check on the wages the contractor paid the workers of the bridge so as to ensure that they will be faithful to the work they are expected to do based on the agreed quality of the finished project.

Well, many would probably ask us why we have to take the issue as a subject of our today’s discourse.

Yes, we have to because we have incontrovertible reports that in Davao City several infrastructure projects – be these are simple health centers, barangay halls, open canals in rural villages, and lately, the construction of a drainage project some six kilometers from down town – suffered a similar fate.

We have it from some “horses’ mouths” — people who benefited from the shenanigans of project contractor’s laborers — that they have bought bags of cement surreptitiously sold at half the price.

Not only the concerned workers are selling cement from the inventory intended for the project, they also dispose steel bars, sand and gravel to willing buyers. And there are actually many in the project vicinity. What with half the items prices!

According to our sources, the contractor’s laborers who sold them the stolen project materials, they have to resort to such shenanigans because they are not paid the appropriate daily compensation for their work.

Our sources further disclosed that the workers’ pay is below the mandated minimum daily wage. And there are times that their wages are not paid on time because the contractors claimed the release of funds from the implementing agency is delayed. In the case of the subject project one drainage line is under the Department of Public Works and Highways as this is nationally-funded.

Another segment is implemented by the local government of Davao City. Hence, it is administered by the City Engineer’s Office (CEO).

It is our experience while on the watch of the implementation of school building construction as part of our former employer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, that one important item in the contractor’s bid costing is workers’ wages.

During that time, the minimum daily wage for construction workers was still P340. But when we scrutinized the itemized costing we already noted that ordinary construction workers wage was pegged at P450 per day. For foremen and skilled laborers it was at more than P500 per day.

When those who submitted their proposal to undertake the company’s school building projects are called for the evaluation of their bids the reason we got every time the item on labor cost is taken up is that they have to pay higher the construction workers as they do specialized jobs.

Of course in the case of our former employer we did the monitoring on the compliance of contractors to the payment of wage standards. We secretly interviewed workers, and at times take a look at their pay slip.

We even demanded then from our contractors, proof that their workers are provided with Social Security System (SSS) coverage. That was why we were able to sleep soundly not bothered by the thought that something could happen to our school building projects due to low quality workmanship.

May be it is about time that the DPWH and the CEO should look into these reports of stealing project materials by underpaid laborers who told those who have acquired their stolen materials they did the illegal acts in order to compensate for what is skimmed in their legally prescribed daily wage by their greedy contractors.

Or would they rather allow the bastardization of the quality of the completed projects as a consequence of the reduction in the volume of cement in the mixtures, the diminution of the sizes and number of steel bars required of the standard?

Indeed so many people, in the government, in the business sector, among the ordinary folk, still need to be reminded that being faithful in their assigned responsibilities is their call.

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