Tuesday, September 3, 2013
MANILA-Pending the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, its features can be implanted in the national budget, beginning with the requirement to upload scanned copies of the Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) on the Budget department website, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said today.
Recto said the insertion of “freedom of information” provisions in the national budget need not be dependent on the enactment of an FOI measure.
“We can frontload the letter and intent of the FOI bill in the General Appropriations Act. We can make the national budget FOI-compliant while waiting for an FOI law,” Recto said.
“There are provisions in the FOI bill that can be applied on the national budget,” he said. “So while we await the passage of the FOl bill, we can pilot its implementation in the GAA.”
Recto said one way of making the implementation of the national budget fully transparent is by posting true copies of SAROs on the official website of the Department of Budget and Management.
A SARO is the “fund release” document signed by the DBM secretary which authorizes an agency to incur obligations for a specified purpose and amount.
Making the SARO public, Recto said, will help citizens “track the progression of public funds, from their release by the DBM to their usage by the implementing agencies, and to their review by the Commission on Audit.”
“If we will bring the SARO out in the open right from the starting line, we will prevent its diversion to bogus non-government organizations,” Recto added.
He said ‘porktrepreneurs’ were able to corner projects because they were probably in possession of inside or advance information.
“But if we will publish the SARO in its entirety, then we are democratizing information and making the whole community own the SARO,” he said.
In making the actual copy of a SARO “viewable by mere click of a mouse, we are also preventing criminal elements from peddling fake SAROs,” Recto explained.
He recalled that since he entered Congress in 1992, “every DBM secretary since then had made it a point to take out regular newspaper ads warning the public against unscrupulous elements who misrepresent themselves as DBM officials.”
The Commission on Audit, he said, will benefit from a publicly-available SARO “as they need not go to the DBM to verify information or double-check facts in the course of auditing an agency.”
Recto said FOI provisions can debut in the General Provisions of the GAA for 2014.
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