Monday, January 19, 2009

Philippines: Turning a blind eye to corruption

This is from Malaya. (Manila)

No doubt the Arroyo govt. turns a blind eye to much corruption because some of it members and supporters profit from it. As the article points out the corruption itself was uncovered only the World Bank after everything was declared as OK by Philippine govt. officials. However, the Senate is likely to be happy to uncover dirt



Turning a blind eye to corruption
Editorial

‘The distinction drawn up the Palace is, as a matter of fact, more worrisome.’
MalacaƱang has said it is support-ing a proposed Senate investigation of anomalies in bidding for road projects which prompted the World Bank to blacklist seven companies, mostly foreign-owned, which allegedly colluded in submitting rigged bids.
What kind of a reaction is that? There was an attempt to steal from a government project (the money may have come from the World Bank but that is a loan that the people will eventually have to pay). Instead of conducting its own investigation and going after the officials on top of the project who allowed the rigging to happen, the Palace is now fobbing off the responsibility of going to the bottom of the anomaly to the Senate.
The blacklisting was the culmination of a two-year investigation by the World Bank vice president for integrity. The World Bank uncovered the initial evidence of rigging in November 2006. This was on two contracts worth $33 million between 2003 and 2006 where there was excessive pricing in three rounds of bidding. The irregularities stalled the release two years ago of the $232 million loan for the second package of the National Road Improvement and Management Program.
Does the Palace mean it did not lift a finger during the two years that the World Bank initial finding came to its attention? About P11 billion was involved in the World Bank freeze. The Palace apparently was hardly bothered by the resulting delay in the implementation of the road project.
The Palace also said the anomalies might have broken World Bank rules against corruption but it has yet to be established that Philippine laws were violated. Of course, violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act can only be established by an investigation. If nobody is looking, it stands to reason no violation of the law can be found.
The distinction drawn up the Palace is, as a matter of fact, more worrisome. Biddings for World Bank-assisted projects are conducted by local implementing agencies. The World Bank comes in only after the fact. In the case of the road program, the implementing agency had given its approval and the anomaly was found only during World Bank review.
How about projects that are solely funded by the government? How many biddings have been rigged and escaped detection for lack of a review process?
But we are belaboring the obvious. Kickbacks are considered SOP in government infrastructure projects. The Department of Public Works and Highways has long been notoriously corrupt. We have yet to hear of any big corruption case in the DPWH prosecuted under the Arroyo administration.
Yesterday the Palace said 3,200 infrastructure projects worth at least P60 billion will be undertaken during the first semester as part of pump-priming. Happy days are here again.

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