What’s the use of project monitoring committees?

About two decades ago, members of a project monitoring committee organized by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) regional office underwent training on how to go about the project inspection.

As part of the training, they were brought to a concreting project being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office in Mayngaway, San Andres.

At the site, the PMC members were surprised to observe the contractor’s workers using a concrete mix of 1:3:7, meaning one bag of cement, three cubic meters of sand and seven cubic meters of gravel.

It was a substandard mix as the required Class “A” mix as required by DPWH standard specifications for concrete roads is 1:2:3.

This was clearly communicated by the members to the contractor’s foreman, who ignored the observation and continued with their work.

The report was submitted by the committee to the NEDA trainors but it apparently went nowhere as the project was apparently completed, paid for and then crumbled into disrepair within three years.

The DPWH had to reconstruct that same road, using several million more in scarce public funds.

Last February, the Provincial Project Monitoring Committee visited several projects, among them the still ongoing and long-delayed construction of seawall in Batalay, Bato.

Armed with the plans, specifications, program of work and detailed estimates, the team composed of technical and non-technical members made measurements at the site, took pictures and interviewed the workers as well as two residents.

Except for an inflated accomplishment report, delayed work and minor deficiencies, the body found essentially nothing wrong with the P43-million project in Batalay, Bato, being implemented by E.R. Rodriguez Construction Corp.

At the time, the DPWH’s project engineer’s report stated that the accomplishment was 80.07%, when it was just actually 57% as discovered by the PPMC.

The committee also learned that the thickness of the structural concrete revetment ranged from 300 to 350 millimeters, short of the required 400-mm thickness.

It was these deficiencies that was reflected in the signed report, which unfortunately did not include the fact that ordinary earth and broken concrete from defective pavements were used as filler in the seawall embankment instead of the required hand-laid rock.

Whether the use of these substandard materials was covered by a variation order, only the project engineer, the construction section chief and the two other higher officials at the DPWH Catanduanes District Engineering Office know.

The contractor’s savings from the change must be huge, especially in the rock embankment as it has a volume of 1,810 cubic meters with a unit cost of P1,428 per cubic meter or a total of over P2.5 million.

As of this time, the Tribune has yet to confirm if the contractor or the DPWH project engineer was ever told of the use of substandard materials in the rock embankment.

Now, with the PPMC report already with the NEDA regional office and beyond revision or amendment, it is now up to the people of Batalay and by extension, the municipal government of Bato, to launch a probe into the questionable seawall project.

Perhaps, they can do a better job than the useless project monitoring committees.

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