By Paolo Romero  The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disputed yesterday allegations that the proposed P2-trillion national budget was riddled with vague and hidden provisions that could be sources of abuse and corruption.

DBM officials were commenting on the report of the Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) that almost P300 billion in “hidden” and “unfamiliar” allocations were inserted in the proposed outlay for next year.

The NGOs identified, among others, the Retirement Benefits Fund (RBF), the Priority Social and Economic Projects Fund (PSEPF), the P44-billion Budgetary Support to Government Corporations (Regular); the P16.8-billion Budgetary Support to GOCCs under the Unprogrammed Fund, the P60.9-billion Debt Management Program under the Unprogrammed Fund; and the P117.5-billion Unprogrammed Fund, as suspicious provisions.

“Consistent with President Aquino’s agenda for transparent, accountable and participatory governance, the DBM has strived to publish each and every possible detail on government spending in its official budget documents and its official website (dbm.gov.ph),” the DBM said in a statement.

The DBM said it had also launched the BudgetNgBayan.com advocacy website to help citizens understand the annual national budgets and the budget process in an illustrative and interactive way.

“The DBM is likewise committed to work with civil society organizations, the private sector and other citizen’s groups to co-advocate reforms for transparency, accountability and participation in the budget process” read the statement.

SWP and ABI are among its private partners in reform programs, the DBM added.

The DBM said the RBF for 2013 is the representation of the total amount of benefits appropriated for civilian and uniformed personnel.

“Of this amount, pensions of uniformed personnel – which have previously been tucked into their respective agencies’ budgets – account for P64.16 billion,” read the statement.

“The aggregation of pensions for uniformed personnel into the RBF was a reform policy-decision instituted by the DBM in budget preparation. This will ensure that funds for retirement benefits will go directly to the proper beneficiaries, and avoid exposing the funds to corruption in the hands of a few unscrupulous parties.”

The DBM said the PSEPF contains allocations for critical development projects that agencies proposed but have not yet been able to flesh out in detail. These have been adopted in the Budget, but segregated under a Special Purpose Fund, in line with the policy against lump sum funds in agency budgets.

Once the agencies flesh out these projects, these will be submitted to Congress as amendments, DBM added.

The DBM said the BSGC item pertains to the regular subsidies and equities provided by the national government to GOCCs, while the separate entry on budgetary support to GOCC is provided for to cover the national government advances for debt servicing of principal and interest as well as interest advances made by the Treasury for loan obligations of GOCCs has been converted to subsidy.

Unprogrammed appropriations are allocations which provide standby authority to incur additional agency obligations for priority programs or projects when revenue collections exceeds targets; new sources of revenues are generated, and additional foreign funds, in the form of loans, are generated, the DBM added.


P282b insertion in budget bared By Christine F. Herrera | Posted on September 03, 2012 | 12:01am | 3,083 views

Hidden outlays for bonuses, dole, non-job items

[PHOTO -Social Watch Philippines convener Leonor Briones]

The civil society allies of President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday accused the Palace of inserting some P282.4 billion in hidden and vague budget allocations for bonuses, dole and other activities that do not create employment.

Social Watch Philippines and Alternative Budget Initiative demanded that the government disclose the “nitty gritty” of the P2-trillion national budget for 2013 for the sake of transparency.

The two groups are part of a network of about 100 non-government organizations that lobby for alternative approaches to formulating the national budget.

University of the Philippines economics professor and SWP convenor Leonor Briones said the government must account for every centavo that was appropriated.

“We are set to probe President Benigno Aquino III’s proposed budget items for 2013 that are still unfamiliar, as well as those [expenditures] that are not visible in the national budget,” Briones said.

The two groups said they were alerted after Agham Rep. Angelo Palmones and Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino (photo at right) characterized the 2013 spending plan as “an election budget” that included an allocation of P60.4 billion to hire 164,230 new state workers.

Because of a hiring freeze, the mass hiring will begin in 2013, an election year.

Ironically, Briones said, the ABI’s budget proposals for health, education, agriculture and the environment were successfully adopted in the national budgets from 2007 to 2011, when the Arroyo administration looked on them as an opposition group.

“But none of the people’s budget proposals are being adopted by the Aquino government now that our staunch partners in the ABI are now in the administration,” Briones said.

Briones pointed to a sudden spike in the retirement benefits fund in the Special Purpose Fund, to P98.7 billion in 2013 from P34.4 billion in 2012.

“Have a significant number of government employees, civil servants and military personnel retired all at the same time? What is the rationale for this?” Briones said.

Briones also questioned the P22.4 billion allocation for Priority Social Economic Project Funds, a new budget item, when the government had already earmarked P56 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development of which around P44 billion would go to the conditional cash transfer program, which has been criticized as a straight dole.

“Several groups have been criticizing the CCT, which seems to be the main anti-poverty program of the administration because it focuses more on doles rather than sustainable livelihoods for the poor,” said Marivic Raquiza, SWP convenor.

“The 2013 budget escalates the budget for CCT to P44 billion. Yet, after all these years of implementation, the latest official data show that poverty has worsened or remains high for the poorest sectors such as farmers and fishers, women and children,” Raquiza said.

She said that while there was a role for social assistance programs, the government should focus on quality job creation to effectively combat poverty.

“Aside from these special purpose funds, Briones said, the public needs also to be informed of the P117.54 billion proposed budget for un-programmed funds for 2013.

The two groups also said there was a need to scrutinize budget items that did not reflect the entire picture, such as “Personal Services.”

They said that item may only reflect the salaries of regular government employees and not include fees for contractual workers, casuals, project staff, as well as consultants or “debt service,” which was reflected in the budget but was equivalent only to interest payments and did not include principal payments.

For 2011-2013 budgets, Briones said, the government earmarked money for Budgetary Support to Government Owned and Controlled Corporations when there was already an allocation for Budgetary Support to Government Corporations.

She also questioned the need for a debt management program fund when the government practiced automatic allocations for debt service.

Her group is also calling for an explanation of how the P22.4 billion budget for “Priority Social and Economic Projects Fund” – a new budget item – would be spent, she said.

“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 said.

“It is our duty as Filipino citizens to investigate how public funds are being managed by the government. Likewise, it is the moral obligation of the administration to be very transparent on where it puts people’s money,” Briones said.

Flora Arellano of E-net Philippines said many children and adult would be deprived of education even though the Education Department still was getting the biggest chunk of the budget among agencies.

“The big increase in the budget for education is attributed to critical inputs needed to finance Kto12. We need additional funds to bring education to the unreached such as people with disabilities, child laborers and marginalized adults who remain non-literate,” Arellano said.

Mercy Fabros of WomanHealth Philippines said the administration also needed to channel more funds for health.

“The Department of Health budget should not only be increased for health insurance for 5.2 million households and enhancement of facilities. There should also be more allocation to address diseases and new epidemics caused by increasing and worsening incidences of calamities that gravely hit the poor,” Fabros said.

Briones said if the President considered the Filipino masses as his bosses, then his administration should be very supportive of the budget proposals that groups of farmers, fishermen, urban poor, persons with disabilities and other marginalized sectors are putting forward.

“We have to be more vigilant as the P2.006-trillion proposed 2013 appropriations is the first budget proposal to exceed the P2-trillion mark. This is 10.5 percent higher than 2012 budget and almost 21.9 percent higher than the 2011 GAA,” Briones said.

She said more than half of the budget “continues to escape scrutiny because of the special purpose funds, automatic appropriations and unprogrammed funds.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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