MANILA, Philippines – The General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the budget law is 4 to 5 inches thick, detailing how much public money is needed for each program under every agency for the coming year.
However, if one goes over the proposed budget for 2015, there are no figures that would indicate whether the planned expenditures in 2014 were indeed made – whether, for example, a certain number of teachers were hired as planned, or roads were built as promised.
Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto wants to close this gap in accountability, proposing that agencies be required to report the execution of previously funded projects using the same line-item format of the GAA.
“If you were able to carefully itemize the projects when you were asking for money then, what prevents you now that you have come back to ask for more from giving us an itemized report of how the money was spent?” Recto asked in his sponsorship speech on the 2015 National Budget on Tuesday, November 18.
The 2014 budget is the country’s first Performance-Informed Budget. This means that the GAA also outlines specific performance targets, which government agencies must reach using their allocation.
“The idea is for the executive to return to us the same GAA, but this time it will be in annotated form. Every funding item in the GAA will carry a corresponding note indicating when it was completed, or if it is still a work-in-progress, or if it was aborted,” Recto added.
According to Recto, one-liner notes or brief sentences on the status of the projects would suffice.
“Another beauty of the approach I am proposing is that lump sum funds can be disaggregated,” the senator said.
Lump sum funds became controversial following the pork barrel scam involving lawmakers and Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court declared partly unconstitutional. These scandals revealed how discretionary block grants were abused by government officials and dubious non-governmental organizations.
However, there are lump sum funds in the GAA, including the Calamity Fund, which cannot be itemized. In the proposal, block funds will be in the post-budget reporting.
“The reason why there’s a data vacuum in the budget accountability phase is that the format used from budget preparation to budget authorization to budget execution ceases to be used during budget accountability,” Recto added.
Through this proposal, the senator hopes to close the gap in the “seamless progression of the budgeting process” from preparation, legislation, execution and accountability phases. – Rappler.com