Bicam OKs P2.6T 2015 budget; adopts compromise on 'savings'
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate and the House of Representatives bicameral conference committee on Wednesday morning, December 10, approved the P2.606-trillion government budget for 2015 after agreeing to adopt a compromise on the definition of "savings."
Both legislative chambers are gearing to ratify the budget bill during the session in the afternoon and later submit it to Malacañang for the President's signature.
Savings is defined to allow the President and heads of agencies to declare savings before the end of fiscal year – but only under limited circumstances.
Sec. 67. Use of Savings. The President of the Philippines, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Heads of Constitutional Commissions enjoying fiscal autonomy, and the Ombudsman are hereby authorized to use savings in their respective appropriations to augment actual deficiencies incurred for the current year in any item of their respective appropriations. An item of appropriation shall pertain to the amount appropriated for the program, activity or project authorized in this act.
Escudero said it is compliant with the Supreme Court ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in limiting Malacañang powers over the budget. Still, others interpret the definiton as giving Malacañang "enough elbow room" in moving some items.
"Una, dapat hindi p'wedeng desisyon lamang nila na hindi na gagamitin 'yung pondo para sa proyekto. Ang 'nilagay namin doon: Bago nila magamit na savings, 'yung rason kung bakit hindi na matutuloy o hindi na ipapatupad ang proyekto ay hindi dahil sa kagagawan nila mismo o hindi dahil sa kasalanan nila. 'Yang savings na 'yan, kapag final na decision na hindi itutuloy ay p'wede na nilang magamit at dapat ma-justifiy nila," said Escudero.
(First, Malacañang cannot decide to hold the funding appropriated for particular projects. We put there that savings may only be declared if the project is not pushing through not because of their own doing [but of circumstances out of their control]. Savings may be declared when there is a final decision to discontinue a project. They may use the savings already for other projects but they have to justify it.)
Notable in the definition of savings is the provision that allows heads of offices to declare savings anytime during the year.
The Senate version wanted savings to be declared only at the end of the fiscal year. The House of Representatives, however, prevailed in its bid to allow government offices to declare savings and use them for other projects before the end of the fiscal year, provided that the government offices submit a regular semestral report on how the savings were used.
The Senate prevailed in limiting the use of savings. Savings may arise from released funds as opposed to the House version that allows savings to be declared from the unreleased but obligated funds.
Released funds refer to funds already downloaded to the agencies. Unreleased but obligated funds refer to items in the budget but not downloaded to the agencies. This movement was one of 3 schemes declared illegal under the DAP scheme.
Escudero said a total of P72.542 billion – a big chunk of it in the unprogrammed funds – was realigned based on a proposal coming from the Office of the President. Details will be provided later. – Rappler.com