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A wastage of funds. This was how Sen. Panfilo Lacson described Friday night the “pattern of delays” in the National Irrigation Administration’s implementation of irrigation contracts.

In his interpellation of the NIA’s 2021 budget, Lacson said the delays were bared in audit reports of the Commission on Audit from 2017 to 2019.

“Unfortunately, the agency has displayed a pattern of delays in the implementation of irrigation contracts sa projects nila tantamount to wastage of funds, as shown in audit reports for 2017, 2018, and 2019,” he said.

He noted that in the 2017 COA report, 436 irrigation contracted projects costing P11.938 billion resulted in significant delays of up to 2,558 calendar days or seven years.

This was due to inadequate planning and inefficient execution of surveys, investigation and engineering design, he said.

In the 2018 COA report, Lacson noted a dismal observation of 299 irrigation contracts costing P20.704B had been tagged as delayed by up to 2,287 days or six years, going to the unsatisfactory performance of contractors among others.

Meanwhile, in 2019, the COA reported 288 projects were delayed, with contract costs of P10.103 billion and delays of 1,373 days or three years.

The NIA, which Lacson noted has an annual average appropriation of P38 billion from 2017 to 2020, has a proposed appropriation of P31.49 billion for 2021.

“Now while admittedly these delays occurred before the appointment of the incumbent administrator, we’d like to know what corrective measures are being put in place to improve and avoid further delays of these projects,” Lacson told NIA budget sponsor Cynthia Villar.

Lacson also cited the case of the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project in San Jose town in Tarlac, where the 2018 COA audit report showed P20.704 billion worth of delayed projects.

The BBMP started during the presidency of the late President Corazon Aquino, with NIA in 1992 seeking to implement the BB project in two phases.

Lacson said Phase 2 was originally expected to be finished in 2018 at a total cost of P13.37 billion, and got appropriations totaling P7 billion from 2015 to 2020. It has a proposed appropriation of P500 million for 2021.

But Lacson cited results of his team’s inspection of the project last Nov. 16, and compared it with images of the project taken in September 2019. “Halos walang nangyari,” he said.

He added the original target completion was June 2020, but the target date was revised to Jan 2021, and further revised to June 2021.

On the other hand, he said the project is only 29.56 percent completed, when its plans indicated it should have been 93.56 percent completed already at this time.

“Now my question is, considering the track record of the construction delays and other issues involved, what can P500M accomplish to contribute to the completion of the project in 2021?” Lacson said.

He added that if P500 million would not contribute greatly to the completion of the project, he will propose to delete it and realign it to other projects.

For her part, Villar said she is willing to conduct a hearing on this.

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