Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said on Wednesday that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is “fine-tuning” and improving its budget processes to avoid instances of special allotment release orders (SARO) being faked.
In a statement, Abad said that the DBM has considered the recommendations of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) report that is requiring the department to improve internal processes to avoid further cases of scams.
“Independent of the fake SARO probe, we’ve already fine-tuned our Document Management System so that valuable files and official documents are tracked more efficiently and meticulously,” he said.
“We’re also looking forward to refining other processes that may be vulnerable to abuse and irregularities, as well as plugging operational loopholes that may compromise the integrity of our work in DBM,” Abad added.
The budget secretary was referring to the issued 12 fake SAROs uncovered in October for farm-to-market projects pegged at over P879.8 million for Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Western Visayas and Soccsksargen.
The fake SAROs were discovered and disapproved in November by the DBM and the Department of Agriculture (DA), citing that the network plan required by the 2013 General Appropriations Act provisions were nonexistent.
“We reached out to the DOJ [Department of Justice] with a request to investigate what we suspected was a systematic fake SARO operation within the bureaucracy. The possibility that the scam involved—and perhaps originated among—some DBM employees was deeply unsettling, but it was a likelihood that we needed to confront in the course of the NBI’s investigation,” Abad said.
He added that “immediate and appropriate action against DBM employees” would be undertaken, and that the budget department would cooperate with the DOJ in relation to the cases to be filed accordingly.
“We will be working closely with the DOJ in determining the best course of action for us, including the filing of charges against DBM staff whose involvement in the scam has been properly established,” Abad said.
He noted that the success of the fake SARO probe would be beneficial for the administration’s campaign for “improved transparency, accountability and openness in government.”