MANILA, OCTOBER 30, 2008 (STAR) By Katherine Andraneda - Congress should be more assertive of its powers over the national budget and should avoid allocating more than what is needed to prevent excess funds from being re-aligned or used for dubious purposes, a former top government economist said yesterday.

Felipe Medalla, former Socio-economic Planning Secretary, made the proposals at a roundtable discussion on legislative budget reforms held Tuesday at the National College of Public Administration and Governance at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

“Even if there is accountability on how the budget is spent, the problem is that the budget is so myopic. Congress should be more zealous in protecting its powers under the Constitution (by) preventing savings from being re-aligned, coming out with a smaller budget with longer allocation,” Medalla said.

“Part of the solution is the act of Congress during the budget process,” he said. “Part of the challenge is (lawmakers) standing up to the President,” he added.

He said a sufficient budget program would prevent dubious insertions or redundant allocations.

One of the budget reforms being proposed by Medalla is the multi-year budgeting for certain government projects.

This means specific government projects would be given steady and fixed budget allocation until the projects are completed.

Medalla pointed out that the government’s report of large savings only meant that Congress allocated a bloated budget.

The UP forum tackled the proposed bill of Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III or the Budget Accountability and Transparency Act (BATA).

“The budget process has become a mechanical ritual that is devoid of meaning. It is not transparent,” Guingona said. “The existing budget legal framework still has the germs of authoritarianism… everything is done in secrecy.”

Guingona said that the government reported an overall savings of P106 billion, representing around 10 percent of the national budget in 2007.

Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokono backed Medalla’s suggestion for a multi-year budget but said it should be done after the elections.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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