If the heads of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have their way, government funds will no longer be wasted on the operations of the Road Board – a redundant, graft-ridden agency that the two Congressional leaders say should be abolished.
Senate President Koko Pimentel III reiterated the call of partymate House Speaker Bebot Alvarez, who, like Pimentel, has filed a bill that would abolish the Road Board by amending Republic Act 8794 – the law that created the Road Board and attached it to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
In the Senate, Pimentel filed Senate Bill 114, while Alvarez is the author of House Bill 6236; both measures would transfer the Road Board’s functions to the DPWH and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
Pimentel, President of PDP-Laban, said that he and the House Speaker “are on the same page when it comes to streamlining the bureaucracy and making sure that the government’s financial resources are allocated where they are needed most.”
“The government has numerous programs that require a huge amount of funding, such as President Duterte’s Build-Build-Build infrastructure development program,” explained the senator who, like Alvarez, hails from Mindanao.
“Given this, we have to identify non-performing assets and shut them down so their budget can be used for more important things.”
According to Pimentel, aside from being a redundant government office and an unnecessary layer in the bureaucracy, the Road Board has been cited by the Commission on Audit (COA) for the illegal use of the Road Fund, which the Road Board is supposed to manage.
Under RA 8794, the Road Board is tasked to manage the use of special funds known as the Road User’s Tax (or Road Fund), which is earmarked solely and exclusively for road maintenance and improvement of road drainage, installation of efficient traffic lights and road safety devices, and air pollution control.
However, the COA’s findings reveal that 90.7 billion pesos from this fund may have been improperly used from 2001 to 2012.
For example, from 2001 to 2010, the COA noted discrepancies amounting to 1.4 billion pesos in the total collection of Road User’s Tax between the collections declared by the Land Transportation Office and the certification from the Bureau of Treasury.
The COA also found that around half a billion pesos of the Road Fund was used in 2004 to 2008 for payment of salaries, allowances, maintenance and other operating expenses that should be charged to the Road Board’s regular budget.
In 2011, the COA says that 62.5 million pesos of the Road Fund was used for the Road Board’s engineering and administrative overhead expenses, aside from the 1.6 billion pesos in anomalies unearthed in 2013.