Press Release
October 23, 2007

ROXAS FILES BILLS FOR TRANSPARENCY IN GOV'T PROJECTS
TO PREVENT NBN/ZTE AND CYBER ED CONTROVERSIES IN THE FUTURE

Senator Mar Roxas has filed two bills that seek to increase transparency and improve checks and balances in the government's undertaking of development projects.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate Trade Committee and co-chair of the Senate probe in to the National Broadband Network (NBN) fiasco, filed a bill seeking to amend one contentious section of the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA) that pertains to treaties and executive agreements, and another bill seeking to fix a loophole in the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Act.

Both bills were filed after Roxas had a consultation with experts on the matter last week to check where the loopholes are in the government's project evaluation and procurement process. These experts are: former Budget Secretaries Emilia Boncodin and Benjamin Diokno, former Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Felipe Medalla and Professor Raul Fabella of Procurement Watch.

"This is the people's best defense against any conspiracy to shortcut the process and to rake in a windfall from overpriced deals. We thank our experts whom we have consulted with, and now we have concrete measures to improve the present system," Roxas said.

"The Joint Committees will pursue the NBN probe to its logical end, in aid of legislation. I am optimistic that at the end of all these hearings on NBN, we will bring about more efficient, effective and transparent project evaluation and procurement processes," Roxas said.

Roxas' Senate Bill No. 1793 amends Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9184, the GPRA, to clarify that competitive bidding should still govern procurement in relation to executive agreements with other sovereign nations.

"In the interest and spirit of transparency, I am introducing this amendment to ensure that our time-held principle of competitive bidding would be upheld even in executive agreements," Roxas said.

The amendments to Sec. 4 of the Procurement Law state that, even with a treaty or international or executive agreement, "priority shall always be given to the application of the rules on competitive bidding… Any doubt with respect to the scope and application of this act shall be construed in favor of competitive bidding."

SB 1794 amends RA 8182, the ODA Law, so that a loan or grant is not considered as ODA merely on the claim of at least 25% savings. The bill proposes to raise such "grant element" from 25% to 40%, and to base such on the calculated present value of debt service payments discounted at 10%, or at the yield on comparable commercial bonds most recently issued by the National Government, whichever is lower.

SB 1794 would also provide that if the ODA project does not go through competitive bidding pursuant to the Procurement Law, such must be ratified by at least two-thirds of the Senate.

"Senate ratification is part of the checks and balance policy embedded in our Constitution but which has not been emphasized precisely enough in subsequent laws. Now, we're proposing this as a safeguard in extraordinary cases where competitive bidding or any form of price competition is not conducted," Roxas said.

"I hope my colleagues in Congress join me in plugging loopholes in these laws that have been abused by those in power," he added.

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