THE METRO Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has returned a P1.2-billion fund it received from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) without the necessary approvals, a lawmaker said on Monday.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader Paul R. Daza, who was one of the lawmakers present in the House investigation on the alleged illegal transfer of funds for the government’s free WiFi program in the capital region, said the amount has been remitted to the Bureau of the Treasury.
National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon confirmed the statement on Monday.
“MMDA gave us two checks, P500 million and P600 million last December… Currently recorded as trust per MMDA request,” Ms. De Leon said in a Viber message.
Mr. Daza said the return of the fund was “another win for the Filipino taxpayers.”
The DICT was provided P12 billion for the Free WiFi for All Program, from which it allocated P3 billion to the MMDA without approval from Congress or the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
During a Dec. 6 joint committee hearing, former DICT acting secretary Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic admitted to signing a contract and checks worth P500 million and P600 million. The fund was for the MMDA’s P1.1-billion project for Metro Manila’s fiber optic backbone development.
In that same meeting, DBM officials said they did not provide any written consent for the interagency fund transfer.
Mr. Daza said the House and the DBM should monitor interagency fund transfers more closely.
“I am aware that it is being done every now and then. However, there should be clearer guidelines and accountability,” he said.
Mr. Daza also called on the DICT to fast-track the rollout of the free WiFi program, noting that it was provided an additional P2.5 billion in this year’s budget.
“The neediest communities in far-flung barangays are still waiting to be connected, especially through the free WiFi program,” he said. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz