DBM CHIEF HOUNDED BY PORK ISSUES
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez of Quezon has summoned Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to appear in Congress on Tuesday to shed light on allegations that “pork-barrel” funds were inserted in the 2019 budget.
Suarez filed House Resolution 2307 requiring Diokno to appear before Congress to answer queries on government’s proposed P3.757-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) amid allegations of “budgetary insertions.”
Suarez was quoted that the insertions “may be considered an election budget, considering the forthcoming midterm elections (in May 2019).”
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said in a TV interview that there were concerns on DBM’s “cash-based budgeting” thus causing the two-week delay in deliberations on 2019 budget.
“And then we discovered P52 billion that could not be supported. We decided to realign this huge amount on Oct. 11, when we approved the budget on second reading, provided that the list of projects and programs to be funded will come from Malacañang, since this is their proposed outlay. The list never came. Preparation of the third-reading copy (of the budget bill) was delayed for one month,” he said.
Diokno, for his part, said Congress’ failure to approve the 2019 budget before the end of the year will be a drag to efforts in improving budget utilization and eliminating underspending and result to delay in the delivery of essential public services.
Diokno also debunked allegations of underspending last week saying “the government is ahead in its disbursements. In fact, we are slightly overspending.”
The agency said the improved rate of spending indicates quicker delivery of programs in health, education, and poverty-reduction and the faster implementation and completion of public infrastructure projects.
DBM said that from an annual underspending rate of 13.3% and 12.8% in 2014 and 2015, respectively, it was cut to 2.9% in 2017. In fact, upon assumption of the Duterte administration halfway through 2016, there was an immediate improvement in government spending as underspending was cut to 3.6%.
DBM said that from January to September this year, actual government disbursements exceeded the program by P62.6 billion or 2.6%. This is because of the front loading and fast-tracked implementation and completion of programs—including those left behind by the previous administration.
Nevertheless, despite the slight overspending, the budget chief expects government spending to normalize in the fourth quarter so as not to exceed the deficit target of 3.0% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Diokno said that the reality is, the government cannot spend more than what Congress has authorized it to spend.