Expediting projects

By Editorial January 31,2018

The show of support from some of Metro Cebu’s business leaders to the Duterte administration’s plan to scrap the current procurement law and public bidding process in favor of unsolicited proposals/Swiss Challenge system coincides with calls from the Senate to review said plan for consideration.

But even before President Rodrigo Duterte announced plans to replace the public bidding process, he was quite emphatic and candid about what he felt was the necessity to expedite the implementation of projects during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) last year.

“You know we can do it two ways … we can take the long road (which you prefer) or the shorter way … I cannot promise there won’t be any corruption but I will see that it will be minimized,” President Duterte told Congress in reference to his plans to resolve the monster traffic congestion now plaguing Metro Manila.

Traffic is one of the myriad problems faced by the government that needs a massive overhaul of infrastructure and network in order to resolve it and while it cannot be done overnight, the public needs to see, feel and sense that something decisive is being done to resolve it.

And the current procurement law and public bidding process, while supposed to ensure compliance with project requirements and specifications and prevent corruption, had not been responsive enough to meet the needs of the many.

Thus while some senators agree that the implementation of projects should be accelerated, they called for a review of the unsolicited proposal/Swiss Challenge system to see if it can succeed where the current bidding process had failed or not performed up to public expectations.

Sen. Francis Escudero specifically mentioned about projects being “supplier driven,” that is it is limited to or adjusted to what the suppliers can offer and perform owing to the lack of or absence of studies on what projects and programs are most needed by the country.

He also mentioned about the lack of specifications and inadequate terms of references for projects during public biddings that can open the field for manipulation and collusion among government agencies, officials and contractors and result in either or both substandard projects as well as court disputes with losing bidders.

Under the unsolicited proposal/Swiss Challenge system, which the incumbent administration in Cebu City Hall insisted should be the mode of pursuing joint ventures with interested investors in the South Road Properties (SRP), proponents can present a proposal and compete with other interested bidders for the project.

While this sounds simple enough, the bottom line should always be that it be transparent, which usually is the case with public bidding, and that there should be zero room for corruption, which again is easier said than done.

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