Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Drilon: Senate funding meant for public service, not personal profit

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon assured today that the Senate is not letting a day pass in making the budget of the Senate as transparent as it can be, saying that measures have already been put in place to ensure that the funds allotted to each member of the Senate are used “judiciously” and executed solely for “their legitimate and fully intended purposes.”

“It is our responsibility to ensure that every peso spent by the Senate during this Congress will be done so in the service of the Filipino people, which the public must be empowered to see for themselves,” emphasized Drilon.

Drilon explained that each office of the senator is allotted a monthly budget of P1.45 million to cover for the salary, allowances and office operating expenses such as payment for supplies, communication expense, and local travels, among others.

“But these funds are not meant to end up in personal purses of the senators because they are used to keep their offices running to say the least. The amount is there to finance the full operations of their offices in pursuit of their legislative commitments,” pointed out Drilon.

He stressed that the Senate ensures that everybody strictly follows budgeting and accounting procedures, and that all senate expenditures pass through COA audit.   

Drilon said that they acknowledge the people’s demand for transparency regarding the use of public funds, especially as the Senate’s reputation “had been adversely affected by various controversies in the past.”    

“The only way we can rebuild the public’s trust is through our decisive and clearcut action – that this time, the taxpayer’s money is rightfully spent in a judicious, pragmatic and an accountable manner.” 

Drilon stressed that the fund undergoes liquidation processes and the expenses are supported by receipts and other documents evidencing the disbursements.

However, there are certain instances that the expenditure is, by its nature, confidential, and only during these circumstance that a certification by the concerned senator is allowed, in lieu of receipts.

These expenditures fall under items extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses (EME) and other maintenance and operating expenses (OMOE) which have a total monthly allocation of P280,000.

The said amount is used “to cover for expenses necessary and incidental to the performance of the official functions of the senator or in aid of legislation which includes, but not limited to, gathering data relative to a legislative inquiry or to a concern or advocacy being advanced by the senator.”

These also cover expenses incurred to ensure the safety and security of the conduct of legislative inquiries and investigators and of those persons invited to become witnesses are also chargeable to this account.

In addition, Drilon said “reforms are already in order to improve budget utilization and accountability in the way the Senate spends its budget.”

He said the Senate has decided to make the funding for regular and oversight committees uniform to save on budget and to avoid unnecessary increases in the annual budget of the Senate. The Senate has a budget of P3.294 billion in 2013 and P3.3444 billion in 2014.

“The public needs to see how their money is being spent. They have the right to probe and pose questions, and we would try to welcome them accordingly,” he said. 


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