MANILA, Philippines – While the government’s efforts to streamline processes in project implementation led to gross underspending in 2011, it had a positive outcome: cheaper publicly-funded projects.
During the Philippine Transparency Forum on Monday, September 17, National Competitiveness Council Private Sector Co- Chairman Guillermo Luz said procurement reforms undertaken recently have made publicly-funded projects cheaper by 20% to 30% cheaper compared to the previous administration.
The government’s gross underspending in 2011 was cited as the biggest factor that caused lackluster economic growth in that year. In 2011, economic growth averaged only 3.7%.
“If we take a look at public works projects, a number of them are coming 20% to 30% cheaper than in the previous administration just on procurement reform,” Luz said. “There is improvement in procurement and I think we should continue to support that.”
Trimming the fat
Luz said that if these procurement reforms are extended to other agencies, particularly agencies that engage in a lot of procurement, the impact would be significnt.
He said not only will there be an improvement in the state of the country’s finances but on the Philippine’s performance in global transparency and accountability or competitiveness surveys.
Luz said the government needs to ‘trim the fat’ across the board to include the Department of National Defense, Department of Transportation and Communication, Department of Health, and the Department of Education.
“If we can extend that type of reform, across the board, procurement reform across all agencies, I think you’ll see more transparency, certainly much more questioning. I think people need to participate in that vigilance and questioning,” Luz said.
No easy task
Francis Capistrano, head of Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Public Information Unit, explained that while there were ballparks or estimates that around 20 to 30% of a budget is subject to corruption, details of where the corruption lies must still be examined.
He noted that there are various avenues where corruption can breed and thrive, areas that can be unique to certain agencies in government and could be larger or smaller than the rough estimate of 20 to 30%.
Currently, he said, the DBM considers the ‘blackhole’ in terms of government finances is budget execution. Capistrano said it is important to be vigilant when it comes to each and every agency’s budgets.
“Saan ba natin mahahanap ang mga mafia na yan? Isa yan sa mga maaari nating pagtrabahuhan na magkasama (Where can we find those mafia’s? That is one area we can work on together),” Capistrano said. – Rappler.com
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