MANILA, Philippines – Are government agencies fully utilizing the emergency disaster funds provided for by their budgets?
This was the question raised by Senator Loren Legarda as she demanded that government speed up efforts to help Typhoon Lando (Koppu) victims get back on their feet.
“Release funds lying in government coffers to Lando victims immediately,” she said in a November 2 press release.
Legarda, who chairs the Senate committees on finance and climate change slammed the sluggish use of emergency funds, 81% of which remains “unutilized.”
Citing a report by the Department of Budget and Management, Legarda said 81% or P5.4 billion of the Quick Response Fund (QRF) has not yet been used up by the agencies that have been given portions of the fund.
Based on records, the Department of Transportation and Communication has not yet used any of its QRF.
The total QRF given to various agencies in the 2015 national budget amounts to P6.7 billion.
The following agencies have been allotted QRF for 2015:
|Department of Education||1 billion||224.281 million|
|Department of Health||500 million||13.292 Million|
|Department of National Defense – Office of Civil Defense||530 million||138.730 million|
|DND – Office of the Secretary||352.5 million||15.914 million|
|National Irrigation Authority||500 million||76.894 million|
|Department of Agriculture – Office of the Secretary||500 million||10.912 million|
|Department of Social Welfare and Development||1.325 billion||311.603 million|
|Department of Transportation and Communications||1.325 billion||Unutilized|
|Department of Public Works and Highways||1 billion||457.260 million|
|TOTAL||6.7 billion||1.25 billion|
Huge ‘idle’ funds
The QRF is on top of the P10.28 billion that remains of the National Disaster Risk Reduction (NDRRM Fund), also known as the Calamity Fund, as of September 30.
Legarda wondered if the two disaster funds have been used to aid victims of the typhoons that came before Lando. When combined, these two funds amount to P15.7 billion.
“I am urging all agencies with QRF to spend it now when survivors of Typhoon Lando most need it. We do not approve funds just to go stale in banks. That is why it is called ‘quick’ response fund. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of Congress for creating such allocation,” said Legarda.
The huge sum of “idle” funds means government has no excuse to delay relief and rehabilitation programs, she added. Any delay would be an injustice to typhoon victims. (READ: Typhoon Lando: ‘Nearly 100%’ infra damage in Casiguran)
“Do not make them victims twice over—victims of natural calamity and man-made calamity, which is government inaction. The latter is the worst,” she said.
Legarda cited a 2014 Commission on Audit report that showed how portions of the QRF and donations allocated to the Office of Civil Defense amounting to P923 million “was not utilized as envisioned and became idle.”
A COA report released last October 29 said the agency has a total of P384.95 million unused donations, including donations intended for recovery efforts for Typhoon Frank way back in 2008.
Because of this, the lawmaker said she would scrutinize further how these funds are allocated and released to agencies coordinating under the NDRRM Council, the highest governing body in disaster response and recovery.
“Before we approve the budget of these agencies comprising the NDRRMC, they need to explain how they utilize the QRF and also the NDRRM Fund,” she said. – Rappler.com