PS-DBM is a catastrophe (2)

President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos in 1975 purged 2,000 corrupt government officials and employees.

September 5, 2022

Section 27, Article II, of the 1987 Constitution on Declaration of Principles and State Policies, provided that: “The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.”

Given that declaration of principles in our Constitution brings out the disappointment of some of our people when they heard the plea of Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman: “Give us a chance, we’ll clean procurement service,” DBM asks Congress amid the abolition calls.

While she said, “She defers to the wisdom of Congress on PS-DBM’s fate, Pangandaman touted how the unit was able to incur as much as P18 billion in savings for the government from 2017 to 2019.”

“So, I think if we give a chance to PS-DBM and if we clean the process and the system of the procurement of the PS-DBM, maybe we can go back to its old glory,” she adds.

The plea of Secretary Pangandaman to “give a chance to PS-DBM,” despite calls from many sectors for its abolition, certainly opens her up to a lot of questions from the multitalented, strict and powerful bipartisan Commission on Appointments and puts to the test her sense of values, academic background, competence and integrity when her nomination for the DBM post will be presented for CA screening of the Philippine Senate.

This brings to a recollection way back in 1975, when President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos purged 2,000 corrupt government officials and employees. One of the top posts that was left vacant and had to be filled was the Budget Commission. After consulting with his official family, President Marcos appointed Professor Jaime Laya, the Dean of the College of Business Administration of the University of the Philippines as Budget Commissioner. The Budget Commission became the Ministry of the Budget on 2 March 1979 until 1982 when it became the Department of Budget and Management under Dr. Manuel Alba.

I served as the resident auditor of the budget agency from 1978 to 1982. Throughout this period, the budget agency did not have a centralized procurement service. Minister Laya allowed government agencies to procure supplies, materials and equipment through their respective Bids and Award Committees, observing prevailing prices of commodities in the market as publicized by the Department of Commerce and Industry, and in consultation with the price monitoring guide then being developed by CoA Chairperson Francisco S. Tantuico, Jr.

The best experience that the budget agency had on procurement of supplies and materials for the construction of a building happened when Minister Laya decided to build for the budget agency its own, the Espinosa building, now renamed DBM Building I. Every type of material for putting up the edifice was procured through public bidding. When the building was finished, its total cost was evaluated by the Department of Public Works and Highways. It turned out to be the most economically constructed building by the government during that period.

This column is inclined to go along with the recommendation of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel Jr., “that the government agencies, meanwhile should not deal with the PS-DBM, and that it would be best for departments not to do business with PS-DBM.”

“Government agencies should procure through their respective bid and award committees during this period when PS-DBM is put under question.”

Pimentel suggested that President Marcos should appoint a reformer to the agencies, who “love the country” and works like “a good father or mother in handling the precious funds of the family” and ensure transparency in the procurement service.

“Maybe we can just maintain a government agency that regularly publishes prices for the benefit of all government agencies based on the research and serve as a guide,” said the bar topnotcher and son of our respected forbear, the father of the decentralization “for the good of our people in all local government units,” former Senate President Aquilino Q. “Nene” Pimentel Jr.

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