George Orwell once said, “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
So it came to pass that a hearing was called in the Senate by the Committee on Finance on May 27, 2014 with nary a media coverage on what some DBM officials have said about standard operating procedures within the Department and several lies peddled in the mass media: SARO errors, GAA as released document, fake SAROs, SAROs with DAP notes, zero budget and reforms in the budget process and DAP.
Why do I zero on the Budget Department? Because the lies unearthed with PDAF are not in the stars, they are in processes already in place and the true state of budget reforms.
Let’s take the case of the allegation made that Rep. Way Kurat Zamora received P3 billion instead of P500,000.00. Under the manual SARO system, legislators are assigned numbers and so as with Departments. In this instant case, Kurat’s last two SARO numbers was “38” but instead “39” was used, a SARO entry that refers to the P3 billion allocation for preventive maintenance for DPWH. So the error by DBM was carried over to the COA special audit. This is a perfect example of how to ruin one’s reputation. Yes, there was correction but damage has been done because the correction came after much milking by media that Rep. Kurat was part of the proverbial list of crooks.
So when asked how DBM rectified the error? They just added “A” to refer to the correct SARO of P500,000 to Kurat. Neat, right? That’s how DBM cures double SAROs by putting “A, B, C” to correct it. Then of course, DBM will say, after reading this, that this is no longer true. Yes, that is right because computerization was introduced in 2007 (mind you not in the reform-minded Abad era).
DBM releases on the average 10,000 SAROs a year prior to GAA as releasing document regime (claimed and heralded in 2014). The longest SARO was 30 pages. A “request of an agency” triggers the preparation of a SARO and the “request is by project.” So end-to-end is purely Executive branch agencies. There is no manual of rules on preparations or corrections of SAROs.
Lie No. 1: “There are no more SAROs.” Truth: There are still SAROs but said documents cover lump sum fund. The GAA as releasing document only applies to line item allocations.
And there goes Lie No. 2. We are not in a regime of zero-based budgeting (ZBB) as thunderously announced in 2011. ZBB is “a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. Zero-based budgeting starts from a ‘zero base’ and every function within an organization are (sic) analyzed for its needs and costs.” There would not be a DAP if there was real ZBB in place.
Lie No. 3 says with e-Budget System in place, DBM is able to remedy the prevalence of faked SAROs (Lie No. 4). They even suggested that the NBI has been tapped to look into faked SAROs. First time I heard it, I knew it was a lie because of the process by which SAROs were prepared, the silo-approach in DBM and the use of security paper called “secpa.” The e-budget started in 2005 while the e-TAILS, which took care of the PDAF releases recently. They said there were no longer manual SAROs (Lie No. 5) when the truth is “as late as 2013, there were manual SAROs.”
On faked SAROs, this response it telling, “Sir, tinatawag lang nilang fake SARO. But actually, nailalabas lang sa DBM prior to the official release of the SARO.” When asked if it was a real SARO, the DBM officer answered in the affirmative and added, “na na-re-reproduce nila,” referring to DBM employees. What for? Your guess is as good as mine.
Even DAP is covered by SAROs. According to the DBM officer, DAP “is not a fund, it is only a program, the funding source will only be the one reflected in the SARO.” How do you know funding was through DAP? “It would be upon request and the approval of the Office of the President.” When further asked, the DBM officer said “DAP is not a mechanism to use savings. The sources of DAP are unprogrammed fund and savings.”
Proof that a fund has been included under DAP would be a SARO with notation “under the Disbursement Acceleration Program.” But there is again a list (why is this administration so hung up on lists?) approved by the President. There is in fact a document signed by the President that enumerates all of the availments of DAP from savings and from unprogrammed funds.
The President signed off to DAP to have release under DAP. Worst, with DAP, one can jumble PS, MOOE and CO and use it for any purpose one so desires.Now, that is not what is being taught in graduate school at UP- NCPAG.
If there are problem areas in DBM, COA has its own share too but that can be for next. What is truly alarming? There has been no exit conference on a consolidated basis instituted. Not with the Office of the President, Ombudsman, the departments or across branches. No wonder we are in a mess.