Mon. Jun 21st, 2021

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has so far returned P283.99 million to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) after the agency terminated its contract with Speedcast, the contractor for its free Wifi project with the DICT.

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The UNDP said the amount was the first tranche of the unused funds and has been returned through the Bureau of Treasury last May 27.

“UNDP continues to have regular interactions with senior officials of DICT. UNDP and DICT have mutually agreed on guiding principles moving forward, including the return of unused funds to DICT,” the UNDP said.

It said the termination of Speedcast’s contract relating to the project’s second phase was “mutually agreed” last May 10.

To date, the UNDP said the project has completed some 882 free Wifi sites across the country accessible to around 350,000 Filipinos.

‘Undervalued’ shipments

In response to allegations of undervalued shipments of telecommunications equipment imported by Speedcast between January and June last year, the UNDP said it was made aware of the alleged irregularities on July 21 last year by partly government-owned Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (PHILCOMSAT).

“While no evidence was produced, UNDP contacted Speedcast to take immediate action and solicited PHILCOMSAT to clarify the matter with Speedcast. UNDP also requested Speedcast to self-report to the Bureau of Customs (BOC), to comply with national laws,” the UNDP said.

As a precautionary measure and regardless of the “missing evidence,” the UNDP said all allegations have been referred to its independent Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI).

“To aid in OAI’s investigation, UNDP has requested from DICT the documents cited in the BOC report. Until the OAI investigation is finalized, UNDP cannot further comment on this matter,” it said.

Earlier, the DICT has asked the UNDP to return what remains of the P1.36 billion it gave to the UNDP to help roll out its “Pipol Konek” free Wifi project across the country, citing the slow and poor performance of Hong Kong-based contractor Speedcast.

This, after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the administration was unsatisfied with the “poor” results provided by Speedcast on the free Wifi project. SOVEREIGNPH

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