Itemize lump sum funds, gov’t agencies told

They have until October 15 to disaggregate their budget, Abad says

MANILA, Philippines – Following the proposed revamp of the pork barrel system, government agencies will also be required to itemize their lump sum appropriations in the proposed 2014 national budget. 

Agencies have until October 15 to “disaggregate” their funds, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said during the first day of hearings on the proposed 2014 budget in the Senate. 

He was responding to Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto’s proposal to subject at least P96 billion worth of projects under line-item budgeting.

“We are also averse to having lump sums in the budget. Increasingly the budget has been desegregated, except for some,” Abad said. 

Should the agencies fail to beat the October 15 deadline, Abad warned that the Department of Budget and Management may re-align the allocations to favor agencies that have been “doing well.” 

The first day of the Senate budget hearing came a day after massive protests calling for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). 

Public clamor to scrap the pork barrel system gained traction after exposes on the misuse of lawmakers funds through dubious nongovernment organizations operated by Janet Lim-Napoles. A recent Commission on Audit report found at least P6.1 billion worth of funds were misused

Environment of mistrust

In his opening speech during the budget hearing, Senate President Franklin Drilon acknowledged that the Senate is opening the deliberations “in an environment of mistrust, and even anger, of the people on the government.”

He made assurances that the Senate will exercise its constitutional duty to scrutinize the budget. 

“This Senate will not abdicate its Constitutional duty, and leave to the discretion of the Executive, the authority to decide and authorize the expenditure of the public funds,” Drilon said. 

Recto, meanwhile, wants the following projects itemized: 

  • Department of Agriculture’s P12 billion Farm-to-Market Road Fund and P5.1 billion Irrigation Fund
  • Department of Education’s P37.7 billion Classroom Construction, Repair, Replacement Fund
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development’s P2.5 billion request for Sustainable Livelihood Programs.
  • Department of Public Works and Highway’s P2.5 billion Right-of-Way Fund,  P11.3 billion request for Various Infrastructure Including Local Projects, and its  P1.9 billion Feasibility Studies, Engineering Designs Fund. 
  • Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program in various agencies totaling P7.2 billion
  • Department of Health’s P13.3 billion Health Facilities Enhancement Program; and the P2.5-billion E-Government Fund.

“If we are looking for a template that can be followed in breaking down huge but vague allocations, then maybe we can start by specifying where classrooms, health centers, farm-to-market roads will be built,” Recto said.

Days before scheduled protests against the pork barrel system, President Benigno Aquino III announced he was abolishing the PDAF and installing a new scheme. Among the reforms would be to require lawmakers’ funds to be included in line-item budgeting. – Rappler.com

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