Tuesday, August 5, 2014

DBM urged to use GAA format in reporting status of projects

MANILA-Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto today batted for a “new budget accountability form” that will promote transparency by showing if a project, activity or program authorized in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) had indeed been implemented.

Under his proposal, the government will be following the same text and format used in the GAA to prove that it had implemented its provisions.

“The idea is for the executive to return to us the same GAA but this time it will be in annotated form. Every funding item in the GAA of the previous year will carry a corresponding note indicating when it was completed and the amount spent for its completion,” Recto said.

“If a line-item in the GAA says that P100 million is appropriated for this road, then what we want is for the government to submit next year the same GAA with a status report opposite the line-item,” Recto said.

“If the GAA authorizes the recruitment of, say, 10,000 new policemen and 50,000 new teachers, then what we want is for the executive to superimpose in that GAA a note stating the actual number of policemen and teachers hired, “ Recto added.

“Sa post-implementation, GAA format pa rin ang gagamitin, pero modified na kasi nakasaad na doon kung ang proyektong ito ay naimplement nga ba o hindi,” Recto said.

“Sa madaling sabi gusto natin ang GAA ang siya ring magsilbi bilang checklist kung natupad nga ba ang nakasaad dito,” Recto explained.

“The beauty of this approach is that lump-sum funds can be disaggregated. Kung halimbawa block fund ang Calamity Fund, sa proposal ko itemized na sa post-budget reporting kung saan pumunta,” Recto said.

Recto noted “that at present it is hard for Congress or for its constituents to check whether a specific project authorized in the GAA has indeed been completed, or has been realigned or has had its funds impounded.”

The reason for this is that the familiar budgeting format used during the first two phases—Budget Authorization and Budget Execution—is not applied during the Budget Accountability phase.

He was referring to three of four budgeting phases:

1. Budget Authorization, when the budget is being debated in Congress,

2. Budget Execution, when the GAA is being implemented; and

3. Budget Accountability, when projects funded by the GAA are audited.

The first phase, budget preparation, is when details of next year’s spending are hammered out in the executive and collated in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) or the President’s Budget.

The NEP later evolves into the General Appropriations Bill which in turn becomes the General Appropriations Act.

“The problem is that what should have been a seamless progression of the budgeting process is interrupted in the accountability phase because there is no feedback as to the status of the projects, programs and activities sought to be funded,” lamented Recto.

“Kung meron man, mahirap ma-flesh out. Pero kung GAA pa rin ang format, mas madali,” he explained.

Recto said that the Commission on Audit need not make the status report. “DBM, whose recent radical reforms allow it to keep tabs on each and every project, can render the report,” he said.

“At ang status report na gusto natin ay hindi kilometric ang haba. One-liner lang or one brief sentence pwede na. In some cases, pwede nilang sabihing “fully implemented” and that would already suffice,” Recto said. 

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