Andaya raps ‘illusory’

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Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno dismissed as “illusory” the charges hurled against him by members of the House Committee on Rules, led by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr.
“His (Andaya) accusations are illusory. The numbers are wrong and the narrative he’s selling is not grounded on facts,” Diokno said.

Earlier, Andaya had accused the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) of adjusting the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) allotment without the DPWH’s knowledge, to which the DBM answered that the congressman cited a wrong figure as the DPWH’s original budget proposal was P652 billion, not P488 billion.

“In the final phase of budget preparation, the total public infrastructure budget was still short of the government’s commitment to disburse at least five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for infrastructure,” the DBM said.

“Given the adjustment, it was the DPWH who filled out their budgetary allocation with the specific project listing. The mandate of the DBM is limited to setting the budget ceiling and evaluating agency proposals by program,” it added.

Not privy to projects

Commenting on the anomalous fund allocations for flood control projects in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2019, the DBM said the agency is not privy to the breakdown of DPWH projects as it is only the implementing agency.

Moreover, the DBM added it is not involved in both the implementation of projects and awarding of contracts after Andaya accused Diokno of backing a specific contractor.

“Contracts are awarded to contractors after open and competitive bidding in accordance with the Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act,” the DBM said, reiterating its role of setting the budget ceiling for line agencies and assessing the alignment of programs to government priorities.

The original budget proposal of the DPWH was P652 billion, not P488 billion as Andaya claimed in the Question Hour last 11 December 2018. The DBM then initially approved P480.2 billion out of the P652 billion budget request of the DPWH.

The role of the DBM is to set the budget ceiling for the line agencies and to evaluate whether their programs are aligned with the government’s priorities, Diokno said.

Pay hike has to wait

Diokno also indicated government workers have to wait for the approval of the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget before they can receive the fourth and last tranche of the Salary Standardization Law of 2015 (SSL).

This, as the government is now operating on a re-enacted budget pending lawmakers’ approval of this year’s proposed measure.

Diokno said, “Government authorities cannot spend on items not authorized by Congress.”

He explained the last tranche of the SSL “is part of the 2019 President’s budget, not 2018 budget.”

“Congress has to approve the 2019 budget before government workers can avail themselves of the fourth tranche,” he said, pointing out that “the re-enacted budget is a second-best option provided for in the Constitution.” The best option is the approval of the proposed allocation.

Still better than US

“This is better than what is happening in the US where the government partially shuts down because Congress failed to pass the budget on time,” he said, adding US’ Constitution does not have a clause for the re-enactment of the government’s budget.

The DBM said state agencies receiving allotment or Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) from DBM are authorized to obligate their actual budget requirements for the first quarter this year.

Diokno expressed hope the re-enacted budget will only be in the first three months of the year.

He stressed that “the sooner the 2019 GAA (Government Appropriation Act) is passed, the better for the economy and the Filipino people.”

“Ramping up our investments on infrastructure and social services will only be sustainable if the budget is authorized by Congress,” he said.

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