POSTSCRIPT / January 21, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Can a ‘Day of Prayer’ arrest Aquino’s slide?

SLIDE STARTS: A growing number of Filipinos now see the national economy and their own living conditions deteriorating, if the first 2014 “Ulat ng Bayan” of Pulse Asia is any indication.

The tragedy of the Aquino administration, or of any regime for that matter, is that once a major slide begins, it will take a miracle to arrest it. A desperate Day of Prayer or a novena of Masses cannot reverse the downtrend once it has started.

After interviewing 1,200 adults nationwide from Dec. 8 to 15, Pulse Asia reported that 43 percent said they were worse off in December than they were 12 months before, with only 15 percent saying their situation had improved. Forty-one percent said they noted no change.

Pulse Asia also reported that between September and December 2013, there was an increase of eight percentage points of Filipinos complaining that their personal quality of life (QOL) had deteriorated.

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‘PERO KULANG’: With the administration insisting that the economy has been surging and that life continues to improve, respondents’ seeing no changes in the quality of their lives (QOL) is a bad sign. It is even worse when people start saying it has deteriorated.

The Aquino administration will need a miracle to arrest the downtrend or at least maintain a plateau in the charts.

But after three years of coasting along on the emotional steam gathered during the 2010 presidential campaign, the Aquino bandwagon has not been able to deliver and pick up.

The administration has shown its utmost best — but it seems that is all that can be expected of it until it bows out in 2016. As the movie said, tinimbang siya, pero kulang!

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MOSTLY LOSERS: Pulse Asia reported that near to small majorities in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon (47 percent to 55 percent) said their QOL in December 2013 had not changed.

Practically the same percentages of Visayans and Mindanaoans (48 percent to 60 percent) said they were worse off in December 2013.

It added that the only significant changes between September and December 2013 are the increase in the percentage of losers (+22 percentage points) and the drop in the percentage of those whose QOL did not move year-on-year (-16 percentage points), both recorded in the Visayas.

In the various socio-economic classes, Pulse Asia continued, almost the same percentages are either losers (42 percent to 44 percent) or did not experience any change in their personal situation in the last 12 months (34 percent to 42 percent).

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MISSING LTO SPECS: The Department of Transportation and Communications looks ill-prepared, but it still set for today the initial meeting among prospective bidders for the information technology infrastructure of the Land Transportation Office.

After the conference, first-stage bids will be accepted until Feb. 18, when they will be opened and evaluated for the next qualifying step.

With two earlier bid failures, this observer smells another failed bid coming. Main reason for this dark outlook is the DoTC’s failure to announce many vital details of the infotech system that the LTO needs.

Reading the bid documents, available on line, one gets the impression the DoTC did not consult the end-user LTO.

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TIME CONSTRAINT: The DoTC bid documents online do not specify the software required, the performance criteria, and the volumetrics (like number of work stations, servers, users, et cetera).

Whoever prepared the document does not seem to have a working concept of time. The winning bidder is required to design, install and start operating a new IT system in nine months, or before the year ends.

From the time the contract is awarded to him, the winner must have the entire project up and running in the 300 LTO sites linked nationwide not later than the 10th month. He will not even have time to study the market and customize the system.

Based on records, business processing alone takes at least five months; completion of requirements at least five months; customization at least five months; user acceptance testing at least another five months.

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STRADCOM RECORD: It took Stradcom Corp., which designed and now operates the LTO system, five years (from 1998 to 2003) from the awarding of its contract to customize and fine-tune it and then receive its Certificate of an IT Facility to roll out the project.

Now the DOTC expects the winning bidder to complete the entire process in nine months when it has not even made provisions for site development and civil works.

Currently, Stradcom pays for practically everything that makes the LTO work: not only the software but also the computers, the computer tables, chairs, cameras. It also answers for the air-conditioning and electricity. The DoTC’s budget does not cover these items.

Site development and civil works entail huge expenses, but these are necessary to keep the system running and secure. The DoTC’s new business model and budget do not provide for these items.

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MAINTENANCE COST: The new budget does not include maintenance expenses. Annually, the expenses for telecommunications hit P40-P50 million, electricity around P40 million, supplies over P19 million. These run to over P100 million that the DoTC does not provide for.

Stradcom also pays for site support, a call center-like outfit that can be called for assistance when any technical problem arises. The new DoTC model has no provision for site support which requires more than P5 million a month and P58 million annually for personnel.

It looks like the government will spend less, and in fact save billions, if the DoTC just renewed the Stradcom contract. The firm, btw, has offered to upgrade the LTO system at a cost of P2 billion without the government having to spend a single centavo.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 21, 2014)

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