Gov't officials urge passage of budget reform bill
MANILA, Philippines – Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Diokno said on Tuesday, February 13, renewed his call for the passage of the budget reform bill, saying it will close the gaps in budget transparency, public participation, and congressional oversight.
In a press briefing on the results of the 2017 Open Budget Survey, Diokno also said, "My vision for the DBM is to be part of the of the top 3 best budget institutions in Asia."
In the latest survey, the Philippine government scored 67 out of 100 in transparency, which takes into account timeliness in making budget information available to the public. (READ: PH ranks first in Asia for budget transparency)
"Looking at the numbers, this is a missed opportunity. Had DBM been able to submit the 2016 mid-year report on time, we could've scored 73 instead of 67. But I am not blaming anyone, we can resettle this," the budget chief said.
The DBM was headed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad until mid-2016, during former President Benigno Aquino III's administration.
Diokno said that the department is targetting a score of 71 points out of 100 in 2021 for budget transparency, higher from this 2017's score of 67.
The 2017 Open Budget Survey is a biannual survey by the International Budget Partnership (IBP). To arrive at the assessment, the IBP used 2016 and 2017 budget documents.
Globally, the Philippines ranks 19th out of 115 countries in budget transparency. (READ: [OPINION] Not as good as it seems)
In terms of oversight, the Philippines holds a score of 65. The IBP said that the legislature and audit institutions in the country provide "adequate" oversight of the budget.
House committee on appropriations chairperson Karlo Nograles explained that budget oversight is a secondary function that is overlooked due to congressmen's workload.
"There's just so much in our plate. It's the passing of the legislation that usually takes the front seat. Oversight is a secondary function for us. And usually we only exercise that function when something exclusive comes out of the media or it seems something that takes the interest of a lot of people," Nograles said.
The congressman added that the challenge lies in exercising the function and suggested that a mechanism should be crafted to be able to exercise oversight more aggressively.
Meanwhile, Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo said that there's a limitation in the auditing process due to the geography of the country and limited government resources.
Aguinaldo pointed out that one of the questions in the survey includes whether all government expenses are being audited: "The answer is no, because it is physically impossible."
He said that the audit scope of COA is very wide and only a portion of the total local government bureaucracy is being audited because poorer villages are audited in cycles – some every two or 3 years.
Despite the limitations, Aguinaldo encouraged the public to participate in the Citizen Participatory Audit, a program of COA that enables the public to "audit" projects that are implemented near their areas. (READ: 'People can help' watch over funds – COA, DBM)
The budget reform bill will affect the way budgets are crafted, spent, and tracked. The bill also envisions to streamline the financial transactions across government agencies under an integrated information system.
The bill has been passed in both chambers of the Congress under House Bill 5590, authored by Nograles, and under Senate Bill No 1450 filed by Senator Loren Legarda, Senate committee on finance chairperson. – Rappler.com