The Senate public works committee has commenced a probe on the multibillion-peso collection from the Motor Vehicle User's Charge (MVUC) to determine whether the government agencies that have been receiving the cited revenues are spending them properly.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairperson of the said panel, directed the Road Board, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to submit to the committee a detailed breakdown of MVUC expenditures.
The move was made in the wake of reports that the MVUC fund is quickly depleted despite a steady annual average collection of P6.5 billion.
The panel learned that out of the P90.7billion collected through the MVUC since the Land Transportation Office (LTO) started collecting it in 2001, only P10.2 billion remained as of the end of 2012.
The MVUC, popularly known as road user's tax, was institutionalized by Republic Act 8794 to ensure the adequate maintenance of national and provincial roads.
The collected funds, which is being managed by the Road Board, are deposited into four special trust accounts, namely: the special road support fund (SRSuf); special local road fund (SLRF); special road safety funds (SRSaf) and the Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund (SVPCF).
The SRSuf, SLRF, and SRSaf are given to the DPWH while the SVPFC goes to the DOTC.
Director Adolfo Escalona of the Road Board during last week's committee hearing reported that as of July 13, the remaining balance of the MVUC collections is tallied at P5.7 billion. Meanwhile, P4.9 billion of the fund is attributed to the SVPCF, which remains unused by the DOTC.
On the other hand, P4.6 billion of the MVUC collection has been spent for SRSuf and P127 million for SRSaf during the same period.
Escalona noted that the board is still processing P43 million in various programs proposed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to be funded out of SRSaf.
The Road Board, he added, has yet to release anything from the SVPCF this year.
Escalona also told the senate panel that the DOTC pollution control fund ballooned because the board disallowed some of the DOTC's proposed projects. He noted that the said projects "did not fall within the approved work categories."
During the hearing, Marcos directed Escalona to provide details on the disallowed proposed projects of the DOTC.
"I see some room for adjustment [on the use of the MVUC funds], as some of the projects were either not completed, not approved, or not accredited for whatever reasons. We will see how we can improve this system to ensure MVUC funds are used properly and for the right purposes," Marcos pointed out.
The senate public works committee also conducted the hearing to discuss various bills seeking to tap MVUC collections for the maintenance and rehabilitation of mass transit systems.
There have been several measures proposed during the past congresses that sought to abolish the Road Board because of its reportedly questionable spending.
Sen. Miriam Santiago, during the 14th congress, called the road tax collection "the biggest scandal of this decade," because officials allegedly refused to observe guidelines, turning the collections into "secret" pork barrel funds of influential politicians.
According to the senator, most of the MVUC collection that time was disbursed randomly by the Road Board secretariat to various entities and was not allocated through legal procedures.
Instead, the disbursement of funds was based on the request of politicians, other government officials, and district engineers, according to Santiago.
The MVUC is the government's third largest source of tax revenue.
Copyright 2013 - The Manila Times, Philippines