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Dahil lang sa kapritso! DOTr quadruples HQ costs just because Tugade wants to spend more time in Clark

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The Department of Transportation has nearly quadrupled its expenses after uprooting its headquarters from Ortigas Avenue to Clark Field, Pampanga just because of a personal whim of its boss, Transportation Secretary Art Tugade.

In a cost-benefit analysis made by the Commission on Audit, DOTr’s total expenses have zoomed to P117.135 million a year with the transfer of its head office to the Clark Economic Freeport Zone in Pampanga initiated by Tugade in July last year.

COA said this was four times the P31.582 million it was spending annually for its 58 condo units in its long-time central office at The Columbia Tower along Ortigas Avenue in Mandaluyong City.

Tugade has not provided a sufficient explanation on the transfer of the DOTr office except for a motherhood statement that it would help to decongest traffic in Metro Manila. Tugade used to serve as head of Clark Development Corp. from 2012 to 2016 before jumping to the Duterte administration.

COA said that even if DOTr managed to lease out all of its 58 units in Ortigas at P50,000 per month or P34.8 million a year, DOTr would still be forking out three times or P82.335 million a year or P50.753 million more if it decided to stay put in its old office.

The biggest increments in annual cost from the transfer are rent (up 278 percent to P50.9 million a year which COA); communication (up 188 percent to P15.344 million); fuel and lubricants (up 379 percent to P11.682 million); and repair and maintenance (up 100 percent to P3.444 million).

On top of these, DOTr would also shell out close to P30 million for shuttle services to it employees who have to travel more than 100 kilometers just to report to their new office. It has a 10-bus rental deal with Genesis Transport Service which picks up DOTr employees in six points. The DOTr Employees Association had previously accused Tugade of abuse of discretion for transferring their office without any bidding and consultation.

COA scored Tugade for rushing the transfer which was evident in its failure to lease out the 58 condo units in Ortigas to recompense for part of the hike in expenses.Tugade admitted that he rushed the transfer five months ahead of the original schedule of December 2017.

In reply, DOTr committed to lease out 48 of the 58 units before the end of this year.

COA also expressed concern that Tugade’s lease deal with Clark for 11 structures on a 1.8-hectare property was in dollars (at 51 to $1) because the differential could lead to higher expenses.

COA noted that Tugade initially proposed a 25-year lease deal with Clark but this was shot down by the Department of Budget and Management which only allowed a 5-year deal so that DOTr could haggle for a lower rental.