Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Program
BFP’s Capability of Safeguarding the Populace from Destructive Fires Hampered by Scarce Resources, and Gaps in Procurement, Construction of Fire Stations, and Maintenance of Fire Trucks
What COA Found
The BFP is not on track in accomplishing the Modernization Program’s goals and objectives within its timelines. As of June 30, 2018, BFP completed only 263 out of its target of 945 fire stations. There are 44 fire stations which are still ongoing while the rest have not even started. For fire trucks, the BFP procured 621 out of its target of 1,057. The audit team identified three (3) major reasons for the non-attainment of these targets. First is funding. The total fund allotted to the Modernization Program is ₱13.17 billion. This is only 22 per cent of the total funding requirement in the amount of ₱60.29 billion. As a result, only 416 out of the 945 fire stations and 597 out of the 1,057 fire trucks were funded by the government. One hundred fifty-two (152) fire trucks were procured through Official Development Assistance (ODA). Second reason is procurement. The BFP did not have a functioning Bids and Awards Committee (BAC). As an alternative, BFP secured the services of the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) and the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) for its procurement needs. However, even with outsourcing, the BFP still encountered delays in procurement. Hence, given that the allotted budget did not meet the funding requirements, BFP still failed to utilize ₱1.91 billion, which was later reverted to the Bureau of Treasury (BTr). The last reason is monitoring. BFP failed to properly monitor the construction of its fire stations and the maintenance of its fire trucks. Upon inspection, 11 out of the 44 ongoing construction were already abandoned by its contractors. The inspection only covered a fraction of the program, hence, there is a possibility that there could be more abandoned construction sites. As for the fire trucks, this Commission already reported in its 2016 Consolidated Annual Audit Report (CAAR) that 176 out of the 469 delivered in 2015 already manifested defects. During site visits, the audit team found that at least 67 out of the 84 fire trucks inspected have defects or non-functioning parts.
The BFP failed to fully upgrade its firefighting capabilities. As of June 30, 2018, there are still 308 municipalities without fire stations including 19 with fire trucks already, 59 fire stations without fire trucks, 1,756 fire trucks without Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and 13,119 fire personnel without complete set of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Agency officials admitted that they are having difficulties addressing these issues due to their lack of expertise in the procurement process. Currently, more than half of the country’s firefighters themselves are vulnerable to the hazards of destructive fires. Apart from procurement, non-availability of lots and/or the inappropriateness of the project sites prevents BFP from setting-up fire stations. Hence, even if there are still available funds, BFP could not proceed with the construction of the fire stations.
BFP data showed that the populace experienced less devastation from the incidence of fires. While the Philippines experienced a steady increase of fire incidence from 2011 to 2016 (and a significant dip in 2017), incidence of deaths and injuries remained below the threshold while incidence of property damages has been on a steady decline except in 2017. Existing BFP data, however, do not show direct correlation between the Modernization Program and the trends. This is mainly due to the lack of reports, which contain performance indicators and relevant information on the effects of the Modernization Program. In fact, data gathered by the audit team on the conditions of the firefighting capabilities and the participation of key stakeholders in fire prevention and suppression activities say otherwise. With less functioning fire trucks, municipalities without fire stations, and limited support from key stakeholders during fire incidents, it is difficult to attribute to the BFP the decrease of devastation of destructive fires in the Philippines.
Why COA did this study
In 2010, the Bureau of Fire Protection launched its Modernization Program pursuant to the Comprehensive Fire Code of 2008. It aims to upgrade the government’s firefighting capability with adequate personnel and equipage in order to safeguard the populace from the hazards of destructive fire. Total funds of the Modernization Program amounted to ₱13.17 billion from CY 2011 to CY 2017. However, despite its launch, the BFP registered 96,447 fire incidents in the entire Philippines for the same period. These destructive fires caused 1,924 deaths, 5,750 injuries and ₱31.06 billion in property damages, thereby raising issues as to the effectiveness of the program.
The audit intends to identify the key reasons behind the gap between the program’s target and its accomplishment and aims to assess: (1) the extent to which the BFP ensured that it has achieved the program’s goals and objectives; (2) the extent the BFP upgraded its firefighting capabilities; and (3) the extent the BFP safeguarded the populace from the hazards of destructive fire.
The Commission on Audit (COA) reviewed the program documents and accomplishment reports, conducted technical and visual inspections of several fire protection services, and interviewed key BFP personnel and selected barangay respondents to assess the extent of coordination during fire incidents.
What COA recommends
COA recommends that the BFP capacitate its personnel on the procurement process to address the gaps hindering the efficient and economical provision of fire protection services. Conduct procurement in a timely manner to maximize utilization of its limited budget. Moreover, the BFP needs to strengthen its monitoring on the projects implemented to ensure their timely completion. There is also a need to improve its key performance indicators and reporting to provide relevant and accurate information for decision-making. Lastly, BFP should strengthen its partnership with key stakeholders for a coordinated effort in safeguarding the populace from the hazards of destructive fires.