QC councilors propose P241 M in infra projects (2/2)

First published in The Philippine Star, 16 September 2013

Quezon City councilors have proposed to the local government various infrastructure projects amounting to more than P241 million.

City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) chief Tomasito Cruz said the “buildings” and “public infrastructure” items in the Property, Plant and Equipment (PPE) budget of his office comprise the budget for the District Development Program (DDP).

Based on the general provision of the 2013 Quezon City General Fund, the CPDO – which is under the executive branch – has a budget allotment for DDP, which will fund proposals from constituents coursed through their respective legislators.

The provision added that upon the written endorsement of the local legislator, the CPDO shall “process, sign and execute the necessary papers, contracts and documents needed to implement the corresponding infrastructure project.”

It also mandates the CPDO and the budget department to give a detailed account for various requests, the amount of each request and the endorsing councilor.

“No funds appropriated for this purpose shall be released, used, augmented or realigned without the favorable endorsement of the city council’s committee on internal accounts,” it added.

For the 2013 budget of the Quezon City local government, P127 million is allotted to “buildings” and P114 million to “public infrastructure.”

Items under “buildings” include office buildings (P15.7 million), school buildings (P15.6 million), hospitals and health centers (P2.7 million), and other structures (P80 million).

Meanwhile, items under “public infrastructure” include roads, highways and bridges (P80.7 million); parks, plazas and monuments (P4.1 million); artesian wells, reservoirs, pumping stations and conduits (P2 million); flood controls (P16.5 million) and other structures (P12.6 million).

Cruz said the allotment for the projects was approved after the proposal from the councilors passed through the scrutiny of various departments that came up with an estimated amount. He added that not all endorsements are approved by the CPDO.

He clarified that the councilors only submitted proposals, and that they have no role in the actual implementation of the infrastructure project. He added that the allotment was not in the form of lump sum releases, and that infrastructure projects are implemented in all districts in the city.

Budget removed

The budget for DDP increased after the removal of the councilors’ allotment for Community Infrastructure Program (CIP), which are used by local legislators to fund infrastructure projects.

In 2010, Quezon City councilors received around P12 million each for the CIP, which is lined under the councilors’ budget for PPE.

But in the Commission on Audit (COA) audit report for the city’s 2010 budget, it recommended that the “the practice be discontinued considering that the implementation of infrastructure projects is not among the functions of the Sangguniang Panlungsod under Section 458 of Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code).

The audit report was released mid-2011, and the budget for the councilors’ CIP for 2011 was already approved at the time. Councilors received zero to P7 million for infrastructure projects that year.

In 2012, however, the local government removed the CIP for councilors in compliance with the COA recommendation.

The COA audit report for the 2011 Quezon City budget noted that the local government partially complied with the recommendation as it removed the CIP for the 2012 budget.

The agency has yet to release its audit report on Quezon City’s 2012 budget.

Based on the city’s general fund from 2011 up to the present, the removal of the CIP and the subsequent transfer of funds to DDP have increased the budget of the CDPO by over P200 million.

No “buildings” and “public infrastructure” items were in the 2011 budget of CDPO, back when the councilors still had the CIP.

In 2011, the CDPO only had a budget of around P82 million. It went up to P302 million in 2012, and then P353 million this year.

Cruz assured that all infrastructure projects of their office went through the normal procurement process.

Same idea for ‘soft’ projects

Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte said they are looking into the possibility of adopting the system for infrastructure projects in the implementation of soft projects of the councilors.

Currently, councilors receive around P7 to P40 million each to fund various projects including livelihood programs and medical missions.

Belmonte said the local government is planning to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and transfer the funds to the line departments under the executive department.

“We want to follow the example of Congress,” said Belmonte in an interview with The STAR.

“The stand of (Mayor Herbert Bautista) is to transfer the funds for soft projects to the line departments. But they (councilors) will still have the prerogative to identify the projects,” she added.

Still millions for PPE

Despite the removal of their funds for CIP, Quezon City councilors still enjoy millions of pesos for their PPE.

In 2010, when CIP was still a part of their budget, councilors only received around P500,000 or less for their office, information technology, and other equipment – all of which are also part of the PPE. One councilor received P3 million in 2010 for motor vehicles.

In the following years, however, councilors started receiving increasing budget allocations for non-CIP items such as motor vehicles, IT equipment and software, and other equipment in their PPE budget.

Based on the 2013 General Fund, elected councilors have a budget for PPE ranging from zero to P13 million.

Valerie Torres, legislative officer at the office of the Quezon City vice mayor, said the budget for PPE can be used by councilors to purchase equipment, computer software, and vehicles, among others.

She said the amount for each councilor varies because the PPE funds saved from the previous year would carry over to the following year.

The PPE budget of councilors in 2010, back when the CIP was still in place, was P12.5 million each.

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