ROUGH CUTS| Why the underspending?

SEVERAL columns back we wrote about the rejection by the Davao City Council of the proposal of the Davao City Disaster Risk Reduction Response Management Office (CDRRRMO) to dredge Davao River.

We opined then that it was one decision that virtually put to the waste basket one project that could possibly minimize if not totally prevent floodings in low-lying plains of the city that have been traversed by the largest fresh water body in Davao.

The proponent, in submitting the project for consideration by the City Council, believes that it could be one major mitigating measure that is easily doable and its effect immediately observable by the people.

But somehow, some councilors did not see it as important and immediate. The outcome was that it did not even reach first base. Right at the committee level the proposed project was “killed.”

We felt sorry for the city’s disaster managers as one project that they could have depended strongly on to prevent the occurrence of serious floods did not materialize. It is a major setback in the city’s disaster preparedness efforts.

Now we are relieved that it is not only us in our lonesome who is literally grieving for the non-approval of a very relevant disaster prevention project. We have the Commission on Audit (COA) whose auditors seem to believe that the city did not do well with the implementation of its disaster prevention, mitigation and response program.

And they manifested their observation through its findings and conclusion in the report of the 2016 Audit findings.

According to the COA the failure of the city to implement projects on disaster preparedness and mitigation may endanger the public. Other than putting the public at risk the city is also possibly guilty of violating Republci Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the COA report added.

The 2016 COA Report noted that Davao City has allocated some P309,454,707.00 for the operation of the CDRRRMO. As of Dec. 15, 2016 the said office was only able to spend 18.17 percent of the said budget. The unspent amount is P253,215,865.87. The spent 18 percent of the total budget is roughly a little over P55 million.

We do not have any idea from what component of the budget the expended funds came from. But we are certain that even if the expenses were taken from the capital outlay, still the amount is peanuts compared to the allocation of P164,336,413 intended for that purpose.

In other words, the city might not have even spent a single centavo from the CDRRRMO’s P216,618,294.90 allocation for preparedness and mitigation activities. And it must be noted that this is the biggest component of the 2016 budget of that particular office.

With this disclosure by the COA of the city’s underspending it is a clear indication that nothing concrete came out of the order of then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte to a special Task Force to craft a City Disaster and Risk Reduction and Response Management Plan as early as 2014.

Had the plan been completed, submitted, approved and endorsed by the then mayor to the City Council for approval, then it would have been much easier for the local government to implement projects intended for such purpose.

Clearly, a comprehensive plan contains the various programs, projects and activities and its corresponding budget. We suspect that what was presented and submitted was simply a list of projects accompanied with proposed budget. And we surmise that the council approved the budget based solely on the list.

The people of Davao have no way of knowing whether the programs and projects that were provided with budget are defined with clarity in the plan. For how could they when we could not remember  the Task Force have conducted any public hearing or consultation when it worked on the supposed plan?

Moreover, if there really is such a Disaster and Risk Reduction and Response Management Plan, the city miserably failed in its responsibility of disseminating it to the public.

Why the local government has opted to keep the plan secret is something for every Davaoeno’s perflexing guess. But what is certain is that it has something to do with the non-implementation of a good number of projects that may have been included in the “secret” plan. Or, was it a “secret”list?

Posted in Opinion