Quality infrastructure projects

The quality of infrastructure projects being implemented is observed to be deteriorating not only in the city but also in the different parts of the region. The government is spending billions of pesos for the improvement of roads and bridges but it seems the public works department and the officials of local governments are not monitoring the quality implementation of these projects. People are grateful to the national and local governments for these facilities but they are also saddened because of the obviously poor quality of work by contractors.

Existing department orders from the public works department clearly outlines the rules and regulations on how projects should be awarded to financially and technically capable contractors. However, these provisions of the law have been circumvented and politicians are most guilty in dipping their fingers into such projects. It is of public knowledge that infrastructure projects are often awarded to desired contractors of sitting politicians. Older citizens wax of the time when DPWH officials were sincere in complying with the letter of the law in awarding projects to qualified contractors. When politicians were given the opportunity to handle projects, they took over the processes and the situation became different. Once politicians come into the picture, the quality of work suffered.

Despite the conduct of competitive bidding, winning contractors are not awarded their projects because enterprising politicians virtually interfere so that the juicy projects are given to their anointed contractors even if they do not have the financial and technical capability.

For several years up to the present, several bystanders are reported to have become millionaires because of projects they got through rigged bidding engineered by their padrino politicians. Ironically, the standards for project implementation have been taken aside in the whole process. Observers claim that many of completed projects nowadays have evident cracks on pavements compared to projects that were implemented two decades ago. These are grounds for the non-payment of the full project cost because of obvious defects. Instead of investing on their own batching plants outside the city to guarantee the right design mix of concrete to be used for their projects, many contractors opt to do the prohibited job mix in their project sites. This contributes to traffic congestions around the city and to pollution in the city’s air which is in violation of existing rules and regulations. The contractors should be reminded of an existing order from the local government that prohibits the conduct of job mix in project sites but it seems contractors refuse to adhere to such policy and the local government is inutile in implementing such policy.

Much could be said against the illegal practices of contractors who are out just to make a killing from their contracts at the expense of the quality of their projects and the convenience of the motoring and commuting public. We should remind the public works department and the contractors that the projects are funded by people’s money.

Much must be said of the DPWH. It must strictly implement existing rules and regulations in the bidding of infrastructure projects, particularly in the compliance of the contractors to the technical and financial requirements of the process. It is unfortunate that the intelligent DPWH personnel are being beaten to the draw by enterprising contractors. Due diligence on the capacity of contractors, and demonstrated proven track record of quality implementation must be the standard practice for assessment of bidders.

For the local government, we challenge our city officials to strictly implement the anti-job mix ordinance and its implementing administrative order to get rid of these obstructions to the smooth flow of traffic, and prevent worsening the pollution in the city’s air through the dust coming from the construction materials being mixed along roads and sidewalks.

We also challenge the Commission on Audit to conduct a mandatory coring test on all completed projects for compliance with the 3,500 pound per square inch concrete design mix, thus, those that do not pass the required coring test should be required to remove and replace. Erring contractors must be compelled to remedy sub-standard works within a given time frame at no cost to the government. These contractors should then be blacklisted from all projects.

Obviously, the people are short-changed by substandard projects which only enrich contractors. Sub-standard quality projects are a threat to the lives and properties of affected citizens and thus concerned government agencies must make erring contractors accountable to violations of the set standards of work specified in their contracts. We do not expect the erring contractors to address issues raised against them on their own volition thus it is incumbent upon the government agencies, the DPWH, the COA and the local government units, to exercise their mandates in ensuring the well-being of their constituencies through the monitoring of prudent and efficient use of taxpayers’ money. We demand greater accountability from those using our taxes. Or else, we can accuse them of collusion.