CUSTOMS modernization has been delayed by procurement issues, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said at a hearing in Congress.
Speaking at the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Official Development Assistance (ODA), Assistant Secretary Jonathan L. Uy of NEDA’s investment planning group said that the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has “started procurement for project supervision and quality assurance consultants, which went through a lengthy process, but there were legal (complications) because of the merger of the highest rated bidder, Spain’s Instituto de la Calidad SA, (Quality Institute or QI) with OCA (Global Consulting and Technical Advisory.)”
OCA Global Investments SLU, a holding company of OCA Global Group, acquired QI on July 1, 2021.
“The merger of those bidding for services for this modernization project (caused the delay),” Mr. Uy said.
The Philippine Customs Modernization Project (PCMP) “aims to streamline operations and processes… by upgrading BoC systems procedures and operational activities,” according to the BoC website.
The PCMP is also expected to help the bureau improve its enforcement with regard to smuggling.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino D. Pimentel III sought to disqualify the project bidder for “hold(ing) our entire modernization program hostage.”
According to the presentation made by the NEDA, the BoC said that in Resolution No. 2022-1 dated Sept. 16, 2022, its Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) “accepted the change of personality of the lead partner in the joint venture.”
Mr. Uy said negotiations with the consultant were completed in March with the draft contract being finalized.
When asked why negotiations were completed six months after the resolution, Mr. Uy said: “the SBAC appears to have exercised too much prudence in terms of the legal guidance.”
For the PCMP, the Philippines paid a commitment fee of $109,000 or P6 million in 2022, Deputy Treasurer Erwin D. Sta. Ana told legislators. In total, $483,000 or about P26.57 million has been paid for the project, he added.
Commitment fees are a portion of the loan paid by governments for undisbursed portions of their ODA loans. Governments are required to pay a commitment fee whether or not a project is delayed.
Meanwhile, the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT), a project of the Department of Agrarian Reform, was also behind schedule.
More than 50 packages were still in their preliminary stages, Mr. Uy said. There was also a low turnout of applicants for Information Technology consultants, which delayed the development of a centralized Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) Management System.
NEDA said the procurement of goods and consulting services is ongoing.
The SPLIT program is expected to fast-track the subdivision of collective CLOAs.
Out of the 70 NEDA Investment Coordination Committee-approved projects supported by ODA, 40 projects are behind schedule.
Agencies involved in project delays will be invited to the next oversight hearing.
Of the National Government’s $4.21-trillion external debt, ODA accounts for $1.87 trillion worth of outstanding loans, Mr. Sta. Ana told legislators. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz