‘Explain vague, hidden entries in 2013 budget’

Two groups said on Sunday more than half of the proposed P2.006 billion budget for the next fiscal year "continues to escape scrutiny."

MANILA, Philippines – What are these “vague and hidden” entries in the proposed 2013 government budget?

Two citizen’s watchdog groups said Sunday, September 2, that the government should explain “unfamiliar” and “hidden” budget items in next year’s national budget.

The groups Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), in a statement, said more than half of the proposed P2.006 trillion budget  for the next fiscal year “continues to escape scrutiny.”

“More than half of the budget continues to escape scrutiny because of the special purpose funds, automatic appropriations and unprogrammed funds,” Leonor Magtolis Briones, former national treasurer and SWP lead convener, was quoted as saying.

In particular, the two groups are asking the government to explain the following budget items, listed under the “Special Purpose Fund”:

  • The sudden increase of the Retirement Benefits Fund, from P34.4 billion in 2012 to P98.7 billion for 2013
  • A P22.4 billion Priority Social and Economic Projects Fund for 2013, which is separate from the P56 billion budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. This, the group said, is a new budget item
  • The inclusion of “Budgetary Support to Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs)” separate from an allocation for Budgetary Support to Government Corporations. This has been present in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) since 2011, the group noted.
  • A separate Debt Management Program fund, despite having the Debt Service/Burden allocation

They also demand an explanation for a P117.5 billion proposed budget that will be under “unprogrammed funds.”

SWP and ABI also said the public should keep an eye on budget items that “[do] not reflect the entire picture,” including budget for salaries and debt service.

“The administration owes it to the people to explain every single centavo because government money is raised from taxes contributed by citizens, including the poorest of the poor,” Briones was quoted as saying. – Rappler.com

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