Malacanang on Tuesday denied allegations of the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay that the Aquino administration engaged in “rushed spending” in the past months to be able to get votes for its candidates in the May 9 elections.
“Allegations of the government’s ‘mad rush to spend during the election season’ leaving the incoming administration with ‘only 16 percent of the national budget’ are untrue and without factual basis,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters in a news conference.
“These statements only reflect a lack of knowledge and understanding on how the national budget is actually spent. The Aquino administration has always adhered to the principles of sound fiscal management in handling the people’s funds and shall pass on to the incoming administration a robust, liquid and financially-stable national coffers,” he said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), according to Coloma, had already released about P2.5 trillion to government agencies, which represent 83.5 percent of the total P3.002-trillion 2016 national budget, as embodied in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
He, however, said the P2.5 trillion “release,” based on national budgeting process, simply means “authority to obligate” what is in the GAA.
“It does not equate to disbursements or actual spending as the funds still need to be obligated first before these can be disbursed by the government agencies. The complete budgeting process involves three steps: 1) Release; 2) Obligation; and 3) Disbursement,” Coloma said.
After the budget is released, he added, the concerned government agency must submit and secure approval for a work and financial plan from the Budget department.
“This serves as the basis for obligating certain amounts for specific projects. Once these projects have been deemed obligated, the agency will secure Notices of Cash Allocation or NCAs from the DBM, which they would present to the Bureau of Treasury to obtain checks,” Coloma said.
Out of the total national budget, he added, about P1.336 trillion or 45 percent are allotted for Personnel Services (P811.8 billion) and Miscellaneous and Other Operating Expenses (P524 billion), which are disbursed monthly.
This, Coloma said, was based on existing work and financial plans of government agencies that passed through the scrutiny of Congress during budget deliberations.
“While it is true that releases have reached more than P2 trillion, total funds obligated and covered by NCAs or Notices of Cash Allocation reached only P464.33 billion as of the first quarter of the year,” he noted.
“Out of this amount, P411.4 billion was utilized to get checks from the Treasury while the remaining P53 billion is still with the agencies,” Coloma said.
In terms of capital outlay, according to him, the GAA requires all government agencies to comply with existing rules on procurement.
These, the Palace official said, include a schedule of payments for payroll items and a schedule of payments for capital outlay based on the percentage of completion of a particular project.
“One of the budgetary reforms implemented by the Aquino administration in 2014 is to treat the GAA itself as the release document, which enabled government agencies to fast-track the implementation of vital projects and programs and sustain the growth momentum. All disbursements from the national budget are subject to stringent auditing and accounting rules and regulations,” he added.
When asked about the El Niño fund releases, Coloma said, “Contrary to the claims of United Nationalist Alliance [UNA], the government has already released P842.5 million to augment the Quick Response Fund for El Niño-related programs.”
The funds cover the “purchase of family food packs for pre-positioning and disaster augmentation, cash or food for work programs, shelter assistance and additional relief supplies” for communities affected by El Niño, he explained.
The UNA camp earlier claimed that the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will be financially crippled, no thanks to incumbent President Aquino’s “mad spending rush.”
“After years of underspending, the administration decided to go on a spending binge obviously to swing voters to favor its chosen one but to no avail. Such recklessness will have as its casualty the priorities of the incoming administration,” Binay’s spokesman Rico Quincho said on Monday.
Aquino will officially step down on June 30.