By Mario Casayuran
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said Friday (April 17) remarked that improvements need to be made to the system for distributing the emergency subsidies under the Bayanihan act, and suggested the establishment of a monitoring system to track “where the money goes.”
‘’With billions (of pesos) — from government funds, savings, loans and private donations — being touted for disposal, the public should know where the money went,’’ Pangilinan said.
Under the Bayanihan Act of 2020, the Executive Branch is mandated to submit weekly to Congress a report on how the P275 billion is being spent in addressing the COVID-19 problem.
Delivery of assistance
Pangilinan said assistance to the people has been slow, if not wanting; guidelines are vague; and not everyone gets the promised subsidy since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) policy was enforced more than a month ago.
He urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to speed up the validation of the additional eligible family beneficiaries identified by the local government units, so that no one will be left out and left hungry amid the pandemic.
However, reviewing the third report on anti-COVID-19 efforts, Pangilinan observed “substantial progress in the delivery of assistance” to the intended beneficiaries.
The opposition senator also noted that the report presented targets and funds released to agencies, but not the actual funds disbursed to beneficiaries.
“We want to see actual numbers rather than targets, and system rather than confusion in the distribution of cash and relief, and the people need to feel that the government is always responding with urgency.
“Service to the people should travel faster than the virus,” Pangilinan wrote in his letter to the Office of the Senate President for reference and possible submission to the Office of the President.
Using telcos to transfer subsidies
Pangilinan also said the government might want to consider tapping the services of telecommunication companies offering mobile money transfers to distribute the cash aid in geographic pockets of poverty.
“There is a strong policy imperative to find alternative ways to quickly reach the poor,” he said.
Pangilinan also asked the government to consider setting up a system for it and the public to effectively monitor the progress of the efforts against COVID-19.
One example is the use of the COVID-19 PH Citizen’s Budget Tracker Team or a similar system that will give a clear summary of the program, target number of beneficiaries, actual number of beneficiaries reached, actual amount released, and the implementing agencies.
“We can work with data analysts and citizens’ groups to monitor where the money goes. It is also good practice to show the donors how their donations are making an impact on the people,” Pangilinan said.
“Transparency and accountability in the use of people’s money should not be set aside in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” he added.