Budget directive to agencies: no projects list, no funds
MANILA, Philippines -- House Committee on Appropriations Chair Joseph Emilio Abaya says the panel expects agencies to submit breakdowns of remaining lump sum funds in the P2.006-trillion budget for 2013 before the chamber gives the budget bill its final approval.
Except for certain funds, such as calamity funds, which he says, are "contingent in nature," the administration is moving toward "almost line item budgeting by 2013," Abaya told Rappler in a phone interview.
The budget allotment for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will also remain in lump sum form.
The PDAF will then be distributed to projects identified by lawmakers at P70 million a year per Congressman--with P30 million allotted for "soft projects" and P40 million for "hard projects."
Each of the Senators, on the other hand, will get to fund P100 million worth of "hard projects" and another P100 million in "soft projects."
Abaya stressed that the projects that may be funded through the PDAF are those previously identified in the DBM's "menu."
Abaya reacted to statements made by budget watchdog group Social Watch and Agham party-list Representative Angelo Palmones concerning lump sum provisions in the proposed 2013 budget.
Leonor Briones, convenor of Social Watch, earlier urged the Aquino administration to explain “vague and hidden budget items for 2013.”
Brioner said more than half of the budget continues to escape scrutiny because it falls under the special purpose funds, automatic appropriations and unprogrammed funds.
The former national treasurer also questioned what she referred to as the “sudden spike” in the so-called Retirement Benefits Fund to P98.7 billion in the 2013 budget from P34.4 billion in the 2012 expenditure program.
Palmones, for his part, warned that a new item in the budget, the so-called Priority Social and Economic Projects Fund (PSEPF), may be used by the administration as an “election budget”.
The PSEPF which is supposed to get an appropriation of P22.4 billion in 2013, if the President's budget proposal gets approved by Congress.
Special provisions governing the use of the funds, according to the National Expenditure Program for 2013, say that the money will be distributed to the following agencies:
- Department of Health - 13.5 billion;
- Department of Transportation and Communications - P3 billion;
- Department of Public Works and Highways - P2 billion;
- Programs/ Projects under the Bottom-Up Budgeting - P2 billion;
- Department of Trade and Industry - P770 million;
- Budgetary Support to Government Corporations (Philippine Coconut Authority) - P566 million; and
- Peso Counterpart of Foreign-Assisted Projects in the Pipeline - P511 million.
There are no details yet, however, on what particular projects the funds will be spent on.
No projects list, no funds
Quoting DBM Secretary Florencio Abad's statements before the Committee in one of the budget hearings, Abaya explained to Rappler that agencies concerned were not able to submit the details due to time constraints.
He noted, however, that the budget department has promised to submit a list of ERRATA with details on specific projects to be funded.
Abaya expects that the list will be integrated into the budget bill before final approval. Abaya said they expect the budget to be approved by the House of Representatives on 2nd reading on September 20 and on 3rd reading on October 15.
"The directive of DBM to the departments is to submit details, disaggregate. Planning is to done by the department themselves. Hindi yung ilalako sa Congressman and bibiyakin," Abaya said.
He added that the budget department has warned the departments that they will lose the funds if no details are submitted. "Aalisin sa department if details are not submitted," Abaya told Rappler.
The Budget department earlier said in a separate statement that the RBF for 2013 is the representation of the total amount of benefits appropriated for civilian and uniformed personnel.
“Of this amount, pensions of uniformed personnel—which have previously been tucked into their respective agencies’ budgets—account for P64.16 billion,” the budget department statement said.
The department further explained in an entry posted on its website that aggregation of pensions for uniformed personnel into the RBF was a reform policy-decision instituted by the DBM in budget preparation. "This will ensure that funds for retirement benefits will go directly to the proper beneficiaries, and avoid exposing the funds to corruption in the hands of a few unscrupulous parties." - Rappler.com