REFORMS in finance management and budget utilization of the Department of Education (DepEd) are already in full swing since Secretary Leonor Briones took office.
A longtime advocate of efficient and timely spending of public funds, Briones’ foremost endeavor as the new DepEd chief is to address identified “bottlenecks and budget underutilization.”
The DepEd’s Finance-Budget and Performance Monitoring Office reported a substantial increase in obligation rate at 67 percent for combined capital outlay and maintenance and other operating expenses in fiscal year 2016, with P76.160 billion total obligation out of P114.295 billion total funds. The higher obligation rate is an indication of improved absorptive capacities of the Education department.
This spike in obligation rate is a remarkable leap from the obligation rate of 53 percent in fiscal year 2015, which saw a total of P43.180 billion spending out of P81.293 billion total funds; and the obligation rate of 55 percent in fiscal year 2014, with P30.044 billion total obligations out of P54.278 billion total funds.
The DepEd also saw an upsurge of 171 percent or P48.135 billion in its maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlay obligation rate based on the June 2016 (26 percent obligation rate or P28.025 billion out of P109.640 billion allotment), and the December 2016 (67 percent obligation rate or P76.160 billion out of P114.295 billion allotment) statement of appropriations, allotments, obligations, disbursements and balances reports.
Major programs that underwent significant increases of obligation include Indigenous Peoples Education, School Feeding Program, Textbook and Instructional Materials, Abot-Alam, Madrasah, Basic Education Facilities Fund, and Redesigned Technical-Vocational Tools and Equipment.
Comparison of the statement of appropriations, allotments, obligations, disbursements and balances reports as of December 2016 for fiscal year 2015 continuing funds by major programs, activities, and projects yielded an obligation rate that ranges from 34 percent to 98 percent, while the obligation rate for fiscal year 2016 funds ranges from zero percent to 90 percent.
The DepEd saved a total of P100.5 million of programs, activities, and projects obligations (July to December 2016) from lapsing by the end of 2016.
Steadfast in her vision of the DepEd to consistently and conscientiously appropriate the biggest government allocation, Briones reminded all DepEd personnel, “It is our mission. Because if we are behind in our work, then we under deliver. If we do not account for the resources that government gives us then we do a disservice to our people.”
Through the strengthened collaboration with Planning, Procurement, and Finance Services at the management level to push for funds release and utilization, DepEd recorded an improved spending in the second half of 2016.
The consistent and frequent monitoring of financial reports from the field increasingly brings in a financial performance mindset, which contributes to the timely delivery of basic education services (i.e. learning materials, teaching and non-teaching positions, and school buildings).
The DepEd also encourages the calibration of budget and accounting skills of central and field personnel, through trainings and roll out of the financial management operations manual.