MMDA: DICT fund transfer 'completely legal'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 24) — The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) defended a fund transfer from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which a lawmaker described as "highly suspicious."

In a statement, the MMDA said the fund transfer was "completely legal and not prohibited."

In a press conference, MMDA acting chairman Romando Artes also clarified that the agency received only ₱1 billion from the DICT, not ₱3 or ₱4 billion.

"Ang aming natanggap ay ₱1.1 billion lamang. Andito po yung resibo so hindi po iyan apat na bilyon, hindi po tatlong bilyon," Artes said.

[Translation: We only received ₱1.1 billion. We have receipts to show it's not three or four billion.]

Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza earlier flagged the multibillion-peso fund transfer that he said was done "without clear guidance from Congress."

"We were informed recently that about three to four billion pesos of the budget allocation were 'distributed' to the MMDA and several LGUs," he said in a privilege speech.

Daza said the funds came from the DICT's ₱12-B allocation for its free public Wi-Fi program, and were transferred "through Memorandums of Agreement."

The lawmaker also called the MMDA's bid for the NCR Fiber Optic Backbone Development project "questionable," as only one entity participated in the bidding process.

"Just last November, the MMDA bid out a ₱1.1-billion project for the NCR Fiber Optic Backbone Development, and is now set to award the contract to the winning company," Daza said. "Do you know how many qualified bidders participated in this high-value project? One. Just one. Of course, this lone bidder won."

"Were there even other bidders who were screened?" he added.

Daza also pointed out "seemingly overpriced" projects and procurements, including a Landscape Treatment Project for Pocket Parks along EDSA that required only ₱9.9 million but obtained a final budget of ₱33.2 million, two laptops that cost ₱181,000, and a tablet worth ₱121,000.

"Right now, the MMDA stands for the 'Metro Manila Development Authority'. I hope the meaning doesn't change to 'Money Making from DICT Allocations.' If this procurement is deemed illegal, then MMDA needs to do the right thing and revert the funds to DICT or the national treasury," he added.

The MMDA explained that the ₱9.9-million budget for the parks grew as each park in each community needed a different design to be implemented.

"Depende naman po yan sa laki at design nong mga pocket parks. Hindi po tayo pwedeng mag standard on a per area na ₱9 [million] lang. Meron po talagang mas malalaking areas na ating pinagagawa at minsan po mas complicated yung design at depende rin po yan sa halaman na inilalagay," Artes explained.

[Translation: It depends on the size and design of the pocket parks. We cannot use a standard budget of ₱9 [million] per area only. There are really bigger areas where we implement more complicated designs which will also depend on the plants we'll use.]

For the laptops, Artes said he will look into the purchase as it was done during his predecessor's term. He, however, assured the public that the procurement went through the proper process.

The DICT has yet to respond to Daza's statements on the transferred funds.