Press Release
August 2, 2015


Itemize, itemize, itemize. And keep the budget errors to a minimum.

Sen. Chiz Escudero's first tip is for department heads who will go on their annual pilgrimage to Congress to ask for funds, and the second is for the Department of Budget and Management, which consolidates all proposals into one national budget bill.

Escudero, who vacated the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday out of delicadeza, said his "unsolicited advice springs from my experience in the finance panel and the mood of my colleagues."

"The sentiment in the House of Representatives is to ask for a bill of particulars for every block grant. The second is to call for a zero-error budget or at least keep the mistakes low," he said.

"The budget is in the details," Escudero said, as he warned agencies "to come prepared because we will be asking you to justify the major items in your proposal." This will include presenting the formula used in coming up with the budget request.

"Kung humihingi ka ng P10 milyon para sa gasolina, ipakita mo sa amin kung ilan ang sasakyan mo at gaano ang konsumo ng bawat sasakyan kada araw at ilang araw sa isang taon ito gagamitin," he said.

And if department heads are asking for a budget to hire more people, they must pinpoint where they will be assigned, Escudero added.

According to the lawmaker, government agencies seeking increase in spending program will be required to break down all the allocations, especially if these are lump sum requests.

"Although it might be impossible to list down all the items, like the names of 4.5 million beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiaries in one lump sum account, the agency must show that such a listing exists and is accessible to the public anytime," Escudero said.

The senator added that lawmakers will also demand a "price list" for common infrastructure projects in order to set a costing standard.

He recalled that in the past, the DBM would include in its annual budget submission to Congress the information as to the unit cost of a kilometer of national road, the linear meter of a bridge and classroom of a given size.

"Ang kagandahan ng ganitong sistema alam natin ang budget ceiling ng bawat proyekto kaya kung meron mang change orders, alam natin kung sobrang-sobra ang sinisingil na dagdag, " Escudero said.

Escudero said he is also putting his foot down on this bad habit of the Executive Department of sending by installment the corrections to the national budget that its finance officials have proposed.

Known in budgeting parlance as "budget errata," these alterations to the budget bill "have recently gone beyond correcting typographical or computing errors; they are substantial additions."

"What I've noticed lately is that budget errata coming from the DBM are no longer spell-check or editing concerns, or one decimal point gone astray. Ang iba wholesale introduction or withdrawal of items na," Escudero said. "Hindi na simpleng errata pero substantial amendment na ang nangyayari."

He added: "Kung zero-based budgeting, dapat zero-error na rin kasi you're starting from scratch unlike in the past when it was incremental budgeting in which increases were just piled up on the previous GAA (General Appropriations Act)."

Should the DBM submit errata notices to the Senate finance panel, Escudero said he would ask the budget department to provide the same to all senators.

The DBM should also provide each and every member of the House of Representatives a copy of the errata they have transmitted, he said. "Derecho sa congressman, hindi yung hanggang sa Committee on Appropriations ng Kamara lang."

Budget officials, led by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad presented documents comprising the administration's P3 trillion spending request for 2016 to House officials Tuesday, with President Aquino's budget message as cover letter.

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