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House passes bill on budget extension

While the DBM already issued obligational authority for P4.39 trillion of the P4.5-trillion budget, the year is ending with billions still undisbursed and unutilized in various agencies

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Voting 168-6-0, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading House Bill 10373, which seeks to extend the validity of the 2021 national budget to 31 December 2022 from its original date, 31 December 2021.

The House passed the measure which aims to amend the general provisions of Republic Act 11518 or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021.

Congress allocated P4.5 trillion for the Duterte administration’s programs and projects for 2021.

“All appropriations authorized in the Fiscal year 2021 GAA, including budgetary support to government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCC), shall be available for release and disbursement for the purpose specified until 31 December 2022,” the bill read.

“The FY 2021 appropriations for infrastructure capital outlays, including subsidy releases to GOCC for infrastructure projects, shall be valid for obligation until 31 December 2022 and the completion of construction, inspection, and payment shall be made not later than 31 December 2022,” it further read.

It also stated that FY 2021 appropriations for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses and other capital outlays shall be valid for obligation until 31 December 2022 and the delivery, inspection, and payment shall be made no later than 31 December 2022.

Once enacted, all government agencies will be authorized to fully utilize the budget appropriated for 2021 until the end of next year. Otherwise, all unreleased budgets by the government shall be reverted to the National Treasury.

The bill mandated the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to issue necessary guidelines for the effective implementation of the cash budgeting system.

One of the six lawmakers who voted against the passage of the bill was Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas.

She lamented the “inefficiency and incompetence in the utilization of public funds” of government agencies that supposedly prompted the legislative branch to extend the validity of appropriations.

“The DBM has always insisted on cash-based budgeting, where appropriations are only valid for one year. But why did we become used to extend the validity of general appropriations, especially as we face pandemics, crises, and the effects of disasters? Are incompetence and inefficiency the problem, or are they deliberately saving billions for the release of funds next year, which is the 2022 election itself?” Brosas pointed out, explaining her vote to the plenary.

“While the DBM already issued obligational authority for P4.39 trillion of the P4.5-trillion budget, the year is ending with billions still undisbursed and unutilized in various agencies,” she added.

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