Senate Finance Committee chairman Senator Sonny Angara on Tuesday, December 6 allayed fears that the confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) granted to a number of government agencies and offices would be examined closely by Congress and the Commission on Audit (COA).
Angara explained that the scrutiny of CIFs is guaranteed by law through the General Appropriations Act (GAA), the Senate’s initiative and is part of the COA’s mandate.
Under the GAA, grantees of CIFs are required to submit regular reports to both houses of Congress and to the President.
Agencies and offices who are recipients of confidential funds are required to submit quarterly accomplishment reports to both the President and the two Houses of Congress. In the case of offices who receive intelligence funds, the quarterly reports are submitted to the President.
“The guidelines on the allocation, use and reporting on the confidential and intelligence funds are contained in Joint Circular 2015-01 issued by COA, DBM (Department of Budget and Management), DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), the GCG (Governance Commission for GOCCs) and DND (Department of National Defense),” he said.
On top of this, Angara said the Senate, through the initiative of Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri will also scrutinize the spending on CIFs through the Select Oversight Committee on Confidential and Intelligence Funds.
“These are in place to ensure the proper use of these funds...There will be periodic meetings of the select oversight committee to assess whether these funds are being used wisely by the agencies involved,” Angara said.
Senators who will comprise the select oversight panel include Zubiri, Angara, Senators Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.
The lawmaker also said COA is still mandated to look into the utilization of CIFs but the results won’t be made public.
“Because of the nature of these funds, since they are linked to national security, safety, counter-terrorism, you cannot just expose these publicly. They are linked to certain things that are established to be essential to the safety of our people, to the existence of the State, etc.,” Angara said.
He said the same process apply to the Senate’s oversight committee, which Angara said has to be kept confidential because of the sensitivity of the issues being examined.
“Little is known about these funds but in the process we learn that there are disallowances on the use of these funds. For instance, you cannot use it to pay salaries and to buy certain things. COA has also historically been looking at these expenses and there are limitations to its use, unlike the common perception that these funds can be used for anything and everything. That is not true,” Angara said.
Under the bicameral conference committee report, the Senate was able to realign around P70-million of the CIFs from different agencies in the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.
The bicameral committee report on the 2023 national budget maintained the controversial P9.3-billion in CIFs of various offices, including the P150-million CIF of the Department of Education (DepEd) that senators have agreed to realign to the agency’s programs.
The DepEd is currently headed by Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.