Government agencies with a “build, build, build” mission have been told to hold a job fair in order to fill the vacancies in engineering and other construction-related positions which have been blamed for the slowdown of infrastructure projects.
The proposal was made by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, who said the lack in competent manpower to design, approve and oversee public works is a major cause of delay in their delivery.
“The backlog is due to what is called technical deficit. Maraming ahensya ay kulang sa mga taong mangangasiwa sa mga proyekto,” Recto said.
He identified the agencies as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Education (DepED), Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Health (DOH).
“For this year and next year, these four agencies will be building easily P1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure. Hindi pa kasama ang mga pinondohan ng ODA at PPP,” Recto said.
He was referring to big-ticket infrastructure projects bankrolled by official development aid and Public Private Partnership ventures.
Recto said the DPWH has 1,777 vacancies in its approved plantilla of 19,501 personnel while the DOTr’s mother agency, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), had 1,297 reported vacancies last year.
With the creation last year of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the DOTC has been divided into two, the other being the DOTr.
Recto said the DepED has also become a major infrastructure builder, with a yearly job order of classrooms in the tens of thousands.
In 2017, DepED had a budget to build 47,492 new classrooms, and for 2018, it will be given money to build 47,000 classrooms, Recto said.
But in a review of its 2016 spending, the Commission on Audit has scored DepED for failing to use P43 billion out of its P412.4 billion allocated budget that year.
The underspending included the failure to use more than half of the funds allotted for buildings and equipment of the tech-vocational track in the senior high, or P2.2 billion out of P4.9 billion, crippling a major aim to produce jobs-ready graduates.
The same is true with the DOH, which has been getting billions of funds a year to build more hospitals, rural health units, and barangay clinics, under the multi-year Health Facilities Enhancement Project (HFEP).
This year, the DOH has a budget of P24.2 billion for HFEP, and P 29 billion is proposed for next year. “Ang resulta tuloy ay it is suffering from an acute constipation of projects,” he said.
“Ang problema sa DepED, kulang ng engineers. Kaya one to two years delayed ang deliver ng classrooms. Ang DOH, ganoon din, kasi nga bulto ng mga empleyado nila mga manggagamot, hindi mga builders,” Recto lamented.
He conceded that this lack of competent technical personnel who will prepare, approve plans for projects, and supervise their construction, is the main culprit for the delays.
Recto said this lack of personnel leads to slow spending. “Underspending is an offshoot of being understaffed.”
“Yung sa capital outlays, na kasama ang infrastructure, ang total available budget ay P1.17 trillion in 2016, pero ang na-obligate ay P823 billion. Magkano natira? P352 billion,” he said.
“All these agencies have a personnel complement that was designed to handle the volume prior to the infrastructure boom. In short, they have reached peaked technical capacity. Overwhelmed na talaga. Kailangan na ng reinforcements,” Recto said.
To lure applicants, Recto said government must “adjust up the pay scale so it can compete in the job market.”
The Department of Budget and Management, he said, should review pay ceilings. “It can scrap unfilled and unneeded lower paying items, and consolidate them into one position with a higher pay. Sa ganoon, walang dagdag na pondo,” he said.
Recto recalled that as early as 2012, then DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson had been airing his frustration on how it was hard to attract talent given the low pay, resulting in a shallow bench of qualified civil engineers in an agency in the cusp of ramping up spending.
Despite the fact that most of projects are now subcontracted to private builders, agencies still have to design, peg the cost, supervise the bidding, oversee the construction of projects, “and these require many man hours.”
“Eh doon na lang sa pag-approve ng PPP proposals, dapat may independent capability tayo, para hindi tayo gumasta nang malaki o mataga nang todo”, he said.