DICT asks UNDP to refund unused ‘free Wi-Fi internet for all’ project funds
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has asked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a refund over alleged lapses in the implementation of the national government’s “Free Wi-Fi for All National Program.”
During the hearing of the House committee on good government and public accountability, DICT Undersecretary Manny Caintic said the move was in accordance with the orders of Malacañang.
“Upon the orders of Malacañang, we have initiated discussions and we have already notified UNDP for the return of the funds that were not yet used,” Caintic said.
“Mayroon pong bayad na sa UNDP na 1.4 million and the rest po pinapa-accounting namin para maibalik po sa national treasury ‘yong ating funds,” he added.
In a statement over the weekend, UNDP explained that the delays in the activation of the free Wi-Fi site were due to pandemic restrictions and mobility limitations.
Moreover, the lead contractor of the project, Speedcast Limited, was also reported to have undervalued shipments in its Customs declarations.
“On the alleged undervalued shipments of telecommunications equipment imported between January to June 2020, by the contractor, when UNDP was made aware of alleged irregularities in import duties, it contacted Speedcast to take immediate action,” UNDP said.
“UNDP has referred all allegations received to its independent Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI), in accordance with its policies and procedures,” it added.
In 2019, the DICT sealed a partnership with the UNDP to hasten the rollout of the government’s free Wi-Fi project formally known as the Pipol Konek—Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project, which was criticized for its slow implementation.