The biggest problem when it comes to the national budget is spending it properly.
This was the gist of House Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th district Rep. Ralph Recto's statement Monday, Aug. 22, which he gave on the same day that the lower chamber received the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP) from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
"When it comes to public spending, the problem is not in budget authorization, or when Congress approves the budget, but in budget execution, when agencies spend the budget given to them," Recto said.
"The budget is supposed to be spent for the right purpose, at the right time, by the right agency, for the right price. But COA (Commission on Audit) reports on procurement fiascos and huge unobligated amounts are a continuing indictment of the failure to obligate funds promptly and properly," noted the former senator.
According to Recto, the failure to obligate funds promptly and properly "betrays the public because the tax-budget dynamic is that taxes paid by the people without disputing must be spent for projects that would benefit them without delay".
"That is the social contract that underpins the budget," he stressed.
"There should be no repeat of last year’s budget utilization rate, when P784.8 billion remained undisbursed by end of the year, on top of P88.8 billion in unreleased appropriations," Recto said.
"Pero kung ang pondo para sa hospital ay di nagagasta, kung ang college scholarships ay di napapakinabangan, kung ilang taon ang aabutin bago mabili ang kagamitan ng pulis, kung nasasayang ang bakuna, kung nakatengga ang isang ginagawang kalsada – ito ay mga patunay na malaki pa ang mga problema sa paggugol ng budget (But if the funds for hospitals aren't spent, if nobody benefits from college scholarships, if it took years before police equipment were purchased, if vaccines get wasted, if a road project is delayed--these are proof that there are still huge problems on spending the budget)," he explained.
"The elephant in the room that must be addressed in this particular budget, through a budget provision outlawing the practice, is the parking of funds in the PS-DBM (Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management) and PITC (Philippine International Trading Corp.)," Recto said, referring to two agencies that he had earlier sought the abolition of.
"Ang nangyayari kasi, ang manok na dapat lutuin agad para maihain sa bayan ay mina-marinate muna ng ilang taon sa mga ahensyang iyan (What's happening is, the chicken that must be cooked immediately and served to the nation is instead marinated for years by these agencies)," he noted.
"If the thrust of this budget is recovery from the pandemic, then how fast our recovery is will depend to a large extent on how fast we spend the budget," the House leader further said.
The 2023 NEP is worth P5.268 trillion--the largest in the country’s history.