Lack of coordination, planning bug govt initiatives
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is working to ease bottlenecks in its budget allocation reform initiatives to correct government underspending and help achieve the country’s economic growth targets.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, in his speech during a JP Morgan Conference, said the lack of coordination and planning is hampering the reform initiatives, which had led to government underspending and a slowdown in growth. Easing these bottlenecks will correct underspending and help achieve the country’s 2015 gross domestic product growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent, he said.
“Budget management isn’t an exercise dependent entirely on the DBM. We look to the rest of the bureaucracy—the other branches of government, departments and agencies, and local governments, for example—to make the most of the funds allotted to them, and to ensure that these same funds are spent within budget rules and guidelines,” he said.
Abad stressed that the reforms the DBM had initiated in government over the past four years had revealed broad operational issues—ranging from weaknesses in project planning and procurement to insufficient capacity and compliance—within various departments and agencies.
“To address the matter of planning and project preparation, we’ve tasked departments and agencies to disaggregate their project listings from 2014 and 2015,” he said.
The budget secretary noted that agencies are expected to facilitate the documentary requirements for fund releases before end of February. These requirements include proper network plans, geo-tagged photos, and implementation guidelines.
Workshops for LGUs
The DBM is also closely coordinating with local government units (LGUs) and agencies to ensure they follow the definitions of savings, budget augmentation, and realignments given in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), Abad said.
“Local governments will need to employ measures to ramp up their spending, while remaining faithful to budget rules. Together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the DBM will initiate financial management workshops for LGUs with government projects,” he said.
The DBM’s goal is to equip local governments for effective project planning and efficient implementation, he added.
Abad explained that the plan is also to equip regional offices of various departments with the means to provide technical assistance, which specifically refers to the preparation of fund liquidation requirements and other activities designed to improve project planning.
Tapping other agencies
The DBM will also tap the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) to proactively help departments and agencies in expanding their capacities for planning and procurement.
“In particular, it might be best for departments to assign full-time support staff to their respective Bids and Awards Committees (BAC). At the moment, the secretariat for each BAC is manned by department staff who are already preoccupied with their regular tasks.
A dedicated pool of people for each Bids and Awards Committee will go a long way in expediting the procurement process for implementing agencies,” he said.
The GPPB will also work with major procuring agencies to discuss issues or recurring problems in the procurement process so that these departments can come up with an improved strategy.
“These are among several courses of action that we intend to pursue beginning this year. Already, these measures are going to be amply supported by existing reforms now in place in the national budget process,” he said.