When there is no closure yet on the so-called faked Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs), the P879-million farm-to-market roads with bogus signatures and PDAF releases from 2010 to 2013 have not been fully reviewed by Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Justice cherry picking on whom to persecute, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is at it again, sweeping the dirt under the rug. COA has admitted that its inability to finish the audit of the Aquino II years is a direct result of DBM’s uncooperativeness by not providing relevant documents.
Here now comes DBM announcing to all and sundry that a budgetary reform has been instituted calling it a: “GAA-as-release-document” regime. From DAP, here is another genius of a move of a Cabinet secretary who has not been taken to tasks by the appointing authority for all the budgetary somersaults and contortions he has made.
DBM’s battle cry for 2014 is “greater efficiency in budget implementation and improved transparency and accountability in the expenditure process.” And its press release said, “and best of all, no more fake SARO scams.” Fake scams? Even that, they can’t get right. DBM further claimed that: “an agency can begin obligating funds as soon as the 2014 GAA is implemented on the very first working day of the fiscal year.” How this will be done is unclear because DBM asserts that the GAA “already stands as the government’s primary budget release document.” It has been maintained that SARO less means less red tape. At best, this government excels in propaganda.
No paper trail for money releases
How can one make such claims when without the SARO and NCA documents turned over to COA, no audit can be done on PDAF? Without the documents now, how can COA do its mandated tasks? How can the money be released without any paper trail?
Without an FOI law in place and in a regime of SARO less allocation of the P2.265 trillion, the public will be unable to follow how public funds are used. Without the SARO and the NCA, the public will have a hard time identifying the savings per agency giving more power to DBM to continually juggle funds and create another DAP.
The PDAF, DAP and other questionable releases all emanated from DBM and yet we still do not have the names of the members of the syndicate operating within. Did we even get any apology from the custodian of the taxpayers’ money on the cavalier manner he treats public funds? On the numerous slips and juggling he has made and yet he is not made accountable for his acts or omissions?
Abad thumps “GAA reforms break grounds for transparency and accountability.” How would the GAA-as-release-document enhance accountability and transparency? Was there a study done? How can it lead to less red tape? Was there time and motion studies performed? Was the gem of an idea, as being positioned by the DBM chief, carefully studied? Was Congress consulted on this so-called reform?
The delay in the release of the budget was the doing of the Abad-led DBM on the first year of the Aquino administration. The DBM claimed they needed to pump prime the economy hence the creation of DAP, an a priori excuse.
In the middle of the term, here we are again with another experiment and so 2014 would be another adjustment year in the bureaucracy and that is potential delay again in getting projects running.
Since DBM will no longer be issuing SAROs and NCAs, it should probably be downsized into its pre-Martial Law status, that of being an Office of Budget and Management. That would be savings on personnel, maintenance and other operating expenditure and capital outlay. Just like the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which received a funding of P127 million, an increase of P3 million from its 2013 allocation of P124 million. There is no pending case before the SET.
The Open Budget Survey 2012, produced every two years by the International Budget Partnership, reveals that the national budgets of 77 of the 100 countries assessed—these 77 countries are home to half the world’s population—fail to meet basic standards of budget transparency. The Open Budget Index (OBI) 2012 scores are very low, with the average score among the 100 countries studied being just 43 out of 100. The governments of 21 countries do not even publish the Executive Budget Proposal; the most critical document for understanding government plans to manage the country’s finances.
Compounding this unacceptable lack of budget transparency are the Survey’s findings on the widespread failure of governments to provide sufficient opportunities for citizens and civil society to engage in budget processes. The average score on participation opportunities was just 19 out of 100. The OBI of the Philippines was at 48.
The director of IBP concluded “absent information and a lack of participation opportunities mean citizens can neither understand the budget nor hold their governments accountable.”
How will the public monitor the 16 Special Provisions of the GAA 2014? These total P78.408 billion among the Departments of Agriculture, Interior and Local Governments, Public Works and Highways, Education as well as State Universities and Colleges? Would this GAA-as-release-document also cover the Supplemental Budget for Yolanda? If it will, what controls will be in place to protect the money of the people from false prophets who are in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves?