DENR unlawfully spent savings just like other gov't agencies -Zarate

Published September 22, 2021, 6:23 PM

by Ben Rosario

Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources reportedly authorized the use portions of the agency’s savings in 2018 instead of reverting the full amount to the Bureau of Treasury (BT) as provided by law.

Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate made this disclosure as he warned DENR officials that they may be held liable for technical malversation.

At the budget deliberation for the DENR on Wednesday, Sept. 22, Zarate called out another “blatant violation of the Duterte administration on the use of savings.”

“Like other departments, the DENR keeps denying that they have savings since 2017 and it has not been posted on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website nor that of the DENR. Yet, now we were able to learn that there was a P1.7 billion DENR savings from 2017 to 2020.

He noted that during the floor deliberations, DENR officials appeared evasive in responding to his queries as demonstrated by the sponsor of their budget, Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco.

Consulting DENR officials before responding to Zarate’s questions, Haresco claimed that the savings have been reverted back to the BT.

“This reversion claim is apparently not true. A November 2018 official letter from the World Bank that is in our possession mentioned that the DENR used savings from the 2018 budget amounting to P83 million as partial refund to ineligible expenses that the multilateral agency flagged in one of its funded projects” he he said.

He noted that the DENR budget sponsor had insisted that no item of the General Appopriations Act “was augmented by the savings.” “But here we are, an official letter from the World Bank mentioning that in 2018, P83 million ang ginamit (was used) as partial refund for ineligible expenses,” said Zarate.

He pointed out that there is no truth to the claim of the DENR that the WB-funded project had been properly liquidated because the loaning agency still demanded a refund for the ineligible expenses.

“Nakalagay din sa letter na ang partial refund na binayaran ng DENR ay galing sa savings. (It is written in the letter that the partial refund paid for by DENR came from savings). The DENR’s statement is not true then that the savings it generated from 2017-2020, P1.7 billion, were all reverted back to the treasury dahil portions nito ay ginamit para mabayaran (because portions wereused to pay) partially ang WB in the amount of P83 million,” said the the opposition solon.

“DENR should be warned that this is a clear violation of the GAA and in fact can be considered as technical malversation,” he warned as he cited the Supreme Court decision declaring the use of savings to be unlawful.

“Under the provisions of the GAA, use of savings is to augment actual deficiencies incurred in the current year in any item of their respective appropriation,” he said.