Senators to probe govt ‘underspending’

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SENATOR Ralph Recto on Thursday said his colleagues would cross party lines in finding out whether underspending still plagues budget utilization as it had in the past Aquino administration.

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The Senate president pro tempore added that senators would grill agencies during the 2018 national budget hearings if they are on track in spending their allocations for the current year.

Recto said unreleased appropriations have reached P185.8 billion in 2016, on top of unobligated allotments of P410.8 billion.

“Of these amounts, how much was due to the election ban on public works and other expenditures, and how much can be pinned on inefficiency, to transition, to lack of plans?” he added.

Officials of the Duterte administration have been quoted as saying that the Aquino administration failed to spend or delayed the spending of an estimated P1 trillion in appropriations, a charge which has been denied by the previous set of economic managers.

“Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it is time to ask this question: Have you solved the problem you have accused your predecessors of doing?” Recto said.

“It’s a valid question because budget hearings are sessions where they’ll be asking for fund replenishment. So before we replenish, we should ask if they’ve been prompt in disbursing,” he added.

Recto said the agencies’ “fund absorptive capacity” would also impact on the Senate debates on the administration’s mixed bag of proposed tax cuts and increases. “We will be looking at both ledgers. Income and spending.”

Examining “spending problem areas would not only pinpoint slow-moving programs, but the fat in the budget and in the bureaucracy as well,” he added.

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