Half of 2015 budget likely lump sums
P1.37T unknown in budget prior to 2016 polls
Nearly half of the 2015 budget may end up as lump sum funds of President Aquino based on the piece-meal information that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has been giving out on the allocations for next year.
University of the Philippines professor and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said during a presentation last Friday on the 2014 and 2015 budget that based on the DBM’s National Budget Memorandum 119, the government agencies will have budget ceilings of P488 billion for personal services expenditures and P743 billion for maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE), capital outlays (COs) and financial expenses (Finex) or a total of P1.23 trillion which compared to total obligation budget for 2014 leaves out P1.37 trillion unaccounted for.
Where goes the more than half of the 2015 budget, to Special Purpose Funds (SPF)? How much is the SPF in 2015?, Briones posed the questions to participants in the forum.
Briones said that since the country is facing many challenges, the most serious of which are poverty, climate change, health and education, and unemployment, the budget can be the most powerful instrument of government in responding to these problems.
“It can be an instrument for the redistribution of income groups to fund services and create jobs for the poor.
The budget can be used to provide education and health services, as well as training and capacity building and fund projects to create employment. The budget can be used to stabilize the economy and control inflation,” she said.
He cited the need for the public to to ask questions on the analysis of the government on the performance of the economy, its policies, thrusts and priorities.
The government should also be made accountable for not only what is explicitly stated but also the more implicit or what is not there, she added.
There is a need to engage the Executive on longstanding issues on citizens participation, special purpose funds, etc. which is a need to demand accountability from the government, she added.
Briones, who is also lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines (SWP) added that the 2014 budget has the same features as earlier budgets, except on the matter of PDAF and the lump sums.
“Even as the PDAF has been officially declared unconstitutional, the public is not fully convinced that it has been totally excised. This four letter word is nowhere to be seen in the 2014 budget but the lump sums of the Executive are still in place,” she added.
The disputed PDAF was originally proposed for P25 billion and it was part of the P310 billion SPF of the Executive. While the PDAF has either been realigned or removed, the SPF under the control of the Executive have been retained totaling P282.57 billion, she added.
She said that among the daunting problem facing the current administration is governance.
“Citizens are fed by the media with a daily diet of scandals and new evidences of massive corruption. The total national expenditure program is P2.264 trillion while total programmed appropriations is P1.468 trillion.
“Unprogrammed funds amount to P139 billion. It cannot be said that the government does not have sufficient funds. The challenges of good governance remain formidable,” she said.
She said while the Aquino administration claimed many reforms have been introduced in the budget system, Aquino’s lump sum remained resilient to reforms.
“The entire country was euphoric about the Supreme Court decision on congressional pork, or PDAF. Citizens are looking forward to its decision on the Development Acceleration Program. DBM has just announced its GAA as Release Document System. Any attempt at reform must be given a chance to work,” she added.
Unfortunately, the lump sums will not be covered by this new system, precisely because lumps don’t have details, Briones said.
Thus, the very problem that is the object of citizens’ demands is not covered by this newest reform, she said.
In the meantime, poverty continues to rise, along with unemployment and all the other social ills even as the GDP likewise continues to rise, she added.
In a related article on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which supposedly pooled savings from the yearly budget, Briones’ SWP said the SC decision on the controversial program isn’t out yet, but the position taken by many individuals and organizations is already clear that the DAP is unconstitutional.
“If there was anything good from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s “why-just-me” tirade, which was the first the public even knew about the DAP, we can say that he was the proverbial child with a proverbial snow globe. He shook it and now we’re in flurry of things, from issues of constitutionality to corruption in the inner workings of public finance. His privilege speech was historical, in a way,” SWP said.
According to Estrada, amounts of from P50 million to P100 million were given to some Senators with the intention to influence the decision concerning the impeachment case of the then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“He was eventually impeached, and those who voted for his conviction allegedly got “love gifts” or “thank you’s” from the Executive in the form of additional funding that was then later revealed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as DAP. The totality of DAP is estimated at around P137 billion,” it stated.
The money was then supposedly used to fund projects recommended by the Senators, essentially making it a form of Legislative Pork Barrel, SWP said.
While it wasn’t exactly the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, the fancy legal name we have for Legislative pork, DAP basically worked the same way, it added.
Legislators played a hand in tasks they weren’t supposed to; that is, the discretionary and Executive task of directing the flow of money. The amounts given to Legislators from DAP was, in essence, pork barrel, the group said.
“PDAF is now dead. Well, at least we probably won’t call pork “PDAF” anymore. There are still huge lump sums in the 2014 budget; huge amounts under Executive control that have no details or appropriation cover. These, we still have to look out for,” it added.