GOV’T OFFICIALS WILL ACCOUNT
LUMP SUM APPROPRIATIONS
Senator Chiz Escudero said that all finance officials and department heads will be made to explain and account for the implementation of programs funded by the 2015 National Budget, including lump sums and discretionary funds which strictly require itemized and detailed listing of projects prior to disbursement as mandated by the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“We want to know how finance officials and department heads spent every single centavo of the budget they had requested. We want to know the status of all the projects. We want to know why underspending still exists despite the availability of funds,” said Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.
While he confirmed that there are indeed lump-sum funds in the 2015 GAA, Escudero explained these are just temporary and with appropriate safeguards.
“The observations of Senator Ping Lacson regarding the lump sums are correct. There are indeed lump sums. However, it is important to note that these funds cannot be used unless an itemized listing is submitted,” Escudero said.
The lawmaker cited Section 65 of the 2015 GAA, which provides that before any lump sum can be used, an itemized listing should be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management, copy furnished to the Commission on Audit and Congress.
“Lump sums are designed to give the agencies needed flexibility subject to, among others, Section 65 of the GAA,” Escudero pointed out.
He added: “Please take note that the 2015 national budget is, by far, the most detailed/itemized budget with the least number/amount of lump sums and we continue to strive to lessen it further.”
Nevertheless, Escudero assured Lacson that the Senate finance panel will “study and review his observations and I look forward to working with him to improve on the 2015, as well as next year’s budget.”
Escudero earlier vowed to scrutinize the details of the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, which Malacañang is expected to submit to Congress on July 28, a day after President Benigno Aquino III delivers his final State of the Nation Address.
He said the Senate will review the administration’s proposed spending package thoroughly to address the problem of underspending, which has been interfering with the economy’s ability to reach its full potential in recent years.
Underspending, he said, was largely due to the low absorptive capacity of state agencies.
Escudero has been insisting that it is not good for the government to underspend because it deprives citizens of essential public goods and services they rightly deserve such as improved education, better healthcare, and more roads and bridges. /MP