Press Release
July 29, 2015

Match budget increase with improved spending ability - Recto

A national budget is a spending measure but it ceases to be when the funds it appropriates "are spent slowly, spent late or not spent at all."

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto said this in pointing out that more than the "peso signs" in the proposed three trillion-peso budget for next year, lawmakers will be looking for provisions that will quicken the use of funds and lead to early completion of projects.

"If it contains the same provisions, then patay tayo. Ano ba ang bagong innovations sa paggasta ng pondo?" he asked

Recto admitted that the "issue of underspending will dominate discussions" on the sixth and last budget bill of the administration.

He said government underspent to the tune of P827 million a day last year, as disbursements fell short of program by P302.7 billion.

"We could have built around 1,000 classrooms a day or build 80 kilometers of roads every 24 hours out of the amount not spent," he said.

According to Recto, the important budget reform lawmakers in both chambers would like to see in the proposed budget is how to "turbocharge spending but without sacrificing transparency, or how to increase volume of spending without violating laws."

"Pang-anim na budget na ito. And every year, we're assured that money will be spent on time. Kung baga sa pelikula, this is being billed as Fast and Furious Spending 6. Hopefully, this time magkatotoo na because this administration expires in 50 weeks," he said.

But Recto was quick to absolve the Department of Budget Management (DBM) for the slowdown in cash utilization by agencies.

"Hindi yan kasalanan lahat ng DBM. May pagkukulang din ang mga ahensya. There are still unresolved absorptive capacity issues," he said.

Recto urged his fellow legislators to "do a system check on where the spending bottlenecks are. Titingnan ang fund flow from the DBM to the agencies to the units that will implement a project."

"If there are planning mistakes, procurement challenges, red tape, lack of technical personnel to implement projects or simply a case of overbudgeting, then these will be known when we grill agencies," he said.

The review of the status of the current year's projects will be pursuant to the so-called "budget rear-view mirror provision" in the 2015 General Appropriations Act, or Republic Act 10651.

Authored by Recto, the rear-view clause, or Sec. 96 of the General Provisions of the GAA 2015, requires a brief accomplishment report on the government's programs, activities and projects, including those funded from lump-sum appropriations in 2015.

The Senate, he explained, will also inquire if agencies are complying with President Aquino's Administrative Order 46 which strengthens the capacity of agencies to execute and monitor projects.

Under the directive, Aquino wants all agencies to transform themselves into "Full-Time Delivery Units" through, among others, the creation of multiple Bids and Awards Committees and staff these with permanent personnel.

"Kailangan sundin ang utos ng Presidente. So when he bows out office on June 30 next year, he can report to his bosses 'mission accomplished' insofar as the projects he spelled out in the last budget of his term are concerned," he said.

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