Gov’t agencies expected to use budgets to serve people’s needs, says Recto

Published November 27, 2020, 3:31 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Friday said there should be no more excuse for the government agencies to delay the disbursement of their budgets.

Senate Ralph Recto (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“After having gained experience in budget execution over the past four and half years, which is a lifetime in public administration, agencies can no longer invoke ‘kulang sa praktis (lack of practice)’ when it comes to spending for things the people have paid for with taxes,” Recto said in a statement.

“The need for on time, on-budget, on-target spending is made urgent by the pandemic. The saying that the virus must be faster than the bureaucracy specifically applies on the speed funds travel from the treasury to the people,” he added.

“Rebooting a stalled economy calls for recharged spending. Ang kailangan ng Pilipinas sa susunod na taon ay Operation Warp Speed sa public spending (What the Philippines needs next year is an ‘Operation Warp Speed’ on public spending).”

The Senate approved on Thursday, November 26, the 2021 General Appropriations Bill which was expected to aid the country’s response recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak and other calamities that hit the country this year.

Members of the Congress bicameral committee will start next week their differing proposals for the P4.5-trillion government spending plan.

Recto, however, pointed out that “the budget is nothing but promises compiled in a thick wad of newsprint if what it authorizes are not implemented for the people’s benefit.”

Citing government reports, the Senate leader said national government agencies were able to disburse only 68 percent of their total appropriations in 2017, while 77 percent in 2018, and 82 percent in 2019.

He also lamented the parking of appropriations in other agencies to make it appear that funds set aside for programs and purchases are being used.

“It is a recourse to meet the fund’s expiry date and artificially prolong its validity. To escape being returned to the treasury, these funds seek asylum in these agencies, where they assume the status of funds already obligated,” he said.

Recto said “it is but fair to expect that they (agencies) have mastered the art of expeditious spending.”

“That the underspending, low spending, and no spending of the past five fiscal years are already things of the past.”

“It is actually the people who paid the tuition for their long learning curve. Budget delayed is development denied. An unbuilt hospital is treatment of the sick postponed and an unfinished schoolbuilding is education put on hold,” he stressed.