Tugade eyed as traffic czar

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If the House of Representatives would have its way on the bill to address the country’s traffic woes, Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade would have to wear another hat as the traffic czar.

This developed after the House approved on second reading last week House Bill 6425 or the proposed Traffic Crisis Act. Among other things, it mandates the DoTr Secretary to streamline traffic management and transportation and to control the use of roads in urban areas.

Congress will include various safety nets in the law to ensure the negotiated procurement process will be free from corruption.

In a radio interview, House Committee on Transportation chairman Rep. Cesar Sarmiento said the consensus of lawmakers was to tap the DoTr Secretary as the de facto traffic chief.

“He will act as a single traffic authority and he will have the power to harmonize all traffic rules and regulations. He would have to look into the routes (of public transport) and the classification of roads to maximize their use,” he added.

The original proposal was to grant emergency powers to President Duterte to enable him to solve the worsening traffic problem in the country.

However, under the House-approved version of the measure, the President is authorized to enter into contracts meant to address the traffic problem only through the traffic czar.

Through such setup, the President is allowed to enter into negotiated contracts for priority projects for the construction, repair, restoration, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of critical infrastructure projects, facilities and the procurement of goods and services that are directly related to traffic-alleviation measures.

According to the lawmaker, the House panel considered the traffic problem in the country as an “emergency crisis” and so they authorized the government to legally enter into negotiated contracts for projects to resolve the problem.

Under the Government Procurement Reform Act, the government may resort to a negotiated procurement instead of the regular competitive process only in case of two failed biddings and in emergency situations.

“Since we recognized that the problem of traffic is an emergency, we can invoke the provision of the law on negotiated procurement,” Sarmiento said.

However, the lawmaker said Congress will include various safety nets in the law to ensure the negotiated procurement process will be free from corruption.

He said the rules on negotiated procurement under RA 9184 should be strictly followed.

“In addition, the contract should be awarded to the party that would give the best advantage to the government. It should also be published in the (government) website (for transparency). If there is wrongdoing, such as collusion, or if the deal is disadvantageous to the government, then the officials involved in the procurement process would be held liable,” Sarmiento said.

If the amount of the contract tainted by corruption is P50 million or more, the lawmaker said those involved may be charged with graft or plunder.

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