COA, Ombudsman to examine government savings from unimplemented COVID-19 programs

Published August 21, 2021, 5:06 PM

by Ben Rosario

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and former Rep. Neri Colmenares on Saturday, August 21 urged the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman to follow the money trail in the form of the tens of billions of pesos in government savings.

Money

Zarate and Colmenares said COA and the Ombudsman should dig deeper into the way agencies have failed to fully utilize funds and their seeming preference to save allocations amid the continued devastation of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We ask the Ombudsman and COA to follow the money trail of unused funds and savings to unearth corruption in the Duterte administration. This pattern of supposed inefficiency has become suspicious since Pres. Duterte does not divulge his yearly overall savings since he sat in office,” said Zarate.

“It is anomalous that Congress is forced to approve the yearly budget without knowing the absorptive capacity of the receiving agencies that it will fund.” he pointed out.

Zarate explained that under the National Budget Circular 584, agencies are asked to surrender expected savings from their 2020 budget. The NBC 586 “covers released allotments under the FY 2020 GAA which remain unobligated until May 15, 2021, but not expressly earmarked for implementation of COVID-19 programs.

The collected savings are realigned by the ‘president as he see fit this is a Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)-like savings and a form of presidential pork,” claimed Zarate.

“Without proper accounting, we cannot blame the people for thinking that this administration is trying to create an enormous war chest in the run up for the 2022 elections,” said the Davao-based solon.

Colmenares said: “Follow the savings! Follow the realignment and augmentation!” “Even if DBM says there is no actual savings because they have been realigned and spent, the COA and Ombudsman should still ask DBM the savings actually pooled before they were realigned and spent. They should not allow DBM to get away with it by the mere claim that they managed to spend it in the end” Bayan Muna Chairman Colmenares asked the COA and the Ombudsman,” he said.

Colmenares lamented that the “definition of savings uner President Duterte made it easier for Malacañang to pool savings and realign it” as presidential pork barrel.

“In fact, under Paragraph 3.13.2.1 of DBM Budget Circular 583 Pres. Duterte included that savings can be declared by the simple expedient that he declares a state of calamity, even if this is not provided under the 2021 GAA or any law especially since the Bayanihan laws have expired,” said Colmenares.

He added: “This gives him the unilateral power to arbitrarily declare savings to make it easier for Malacanang to declare savings in violation of the Supreme Court decisions on pork barrel.”

 
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