₱63-B in gov't funds 'parked' for years in DBM-PS, PITC — Recto

Published August 24, 2021, 7:39 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday, August 24, claimed that two agencies now owe the government over P63 billion for supposedly failing to deliver good and services that they were contracted to purchase.

In this file photo, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on September 14, 2020 asks officials of the Department of Budget and Management for a detailed list of programs and projects that were discontinued due to the 2020 realignments to fund the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. (Senate PRIB)

In a statement, Recto said the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) and the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), a Department of Trade and Industry-attached agency, have become “mega parking lots” for funds due to what he coined as the “pasa-buy” scheme in government procurement.

According to the former socioeconomic planning secretary, some P63.1 billion of “unutilized deposits and advance payments of government agencies” were lodged in the DBM-PS and the PITC.

Of the amount, P31.54 billion was supposedly with the PITC, while P31.56 billion was with the DBM-PS, he said.

He lamented how the two agencies “have become last minute dumping grounds of about-to-expire allotments of agencies”.

“Hindi naman procurement expertise ang dahilan kung bakit sila napapasahan ng pondo. Ang totoong dahilan ay upang huwag abutan ng deadline at mapaso ang mga pondo ng mga ahensya (It’s not because of their procurement expertise that they were transferred funds. The real reason is that agencies wanted to avoid the deadline and the expiration of their funds),” Recto said.

“Once an agency transfers the funds for a particular project to PITC or PS-DBM, the funds are deemed obligated. Parang committed na (So they will appear committed). And this prevents the funds from being returned to the Treasury,” he noted, referring to provisions in the annual national budget mandating that funds be spent within the fiscal year.

He said the PITC, for instance, has P355 million worth of goods and projects yet to be delivered since 2016.

He also noted that an P864-million worth construction of an Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) building languished since 2017, and that the bidding process started only last March.

The same delays plague subcontracted procurements to PS-DBM, Recto said.

“So the mystery is, if PS-DBM has been plagued with delays in the delivery of goods, if it has this huge backlog of deliverables, then why would the Department of Health (DOH) contract them to buy things we urgently need to defeat the pandemic?” Recto asked.

Senators earlier questioned the DOH for transferring P42 billion to procure pandemic response supplies, as noted by the Commission on Audit (COA).