Puwedeng gamitin para ipambili ng kinakailangan na P20 bilyon na karagdagang bakuna ngayong taon ang bilyon-bilyong congressional insertions na minarkahan ng Department of Budget and Management (DBM) na for later release (FLR).
Iminungkahi ito ni Senador Panfilo Lacson matapos na makausap nitong nakaraang Huwebes ang tatlong czar na nangangasiwa ng mga programa laban sa COVID-19.
“I suggested that the P20 billion can be sourced from the insertions made by lawmakers marked ‘FLR’ because the implementing agencies concerned were not consulted on the insertions and thus could not implement them,” pagbubunyag ni Lacson sa panayam sa kanya ng DWIZ nitong Sabado.
Why not use the humongous congressional insertions tagged by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as “For Later Release” (FLR) to meet the P20-billion requirement for COVID vaccines for this year?
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson raised the possibility following a meeting between him and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and the “three czars” of the government’s COVID response program last Thursday.
“I suggested that the P20 billion can be sourced from the insertions made by lawmakers marked ‘FLR’ because the implementing agencies concerned were not consulted on the insertions and thus could not implement them,” he said in an interview on DWIZ radio Saturday.
While the intention may be good, let us first take a serious look at the situation. Since the Department of Budget and Management already said that the government coffers have dried up, hence funds are no longer available, the bigger question remains: Can we still afford more borrowings intended for dole-outs instead of for other productive purposes to boost our economy? The last thing we need is ending up in a ‘Sisyphean’ situation.
Our best option is to have a sense of urgency and allow the private sector more participation with better flexibility in the vaccination program – true to the government’s ‘whole-of-nation approach’ theme, which is turning out to be mere platitude and lip service.
Then, if we really need to pass Bayanihan 3, the national and local governments must first get their act together to update the data on the intended recipients of the social amelioration program since what the Department of Social Welfare and Development is using is a five-year-old list that is already out of date – hence real-time needs and priorities are not being properly addressed, not to mention the corruption involved in the distribution of such dole-outs because of such a defective list.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson renewed his call to fellow lawmakers for transparency, “particularly our amendments in the 2021 budget bill.”
Lacson stressed transparency is crucial to dispel suspicions of “compromises and personal interests in our proposed amendments.”
“If we have nothing to hide, we have to make our amendments public, as I have done in my case, so those amendments can be scrutinized by the media as well as the public. It is the mandate of Congress to make amendments to the budget bill; we cannot just adopt the National Expenditure Program in toto,” he said in an interview on DZRH radio Friday evening.
Upang matiyak na hindi ito nakikidoble sa ibang ahensiya, kailangang mapag-aralan ang mga umiiral na tungkulin ng Philippine International Trading Center (PITC).
Binigyang-diin ito ni Senador Panfilo Lacson sa harap ng usapin na mistulang napipigilan nito ang pag-realign ng pondo para sa mahahalagang proyekto.
“The issue is this: If the agencies procure items via their own Bids and Awards Committees or the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service, the funds that are not used can be converted into savings. The President, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice are allowed by the Constitution to realign these to other items within their respective offices. But funds with the PITC become idle and are returned to the Treasury,” pagsisiwalat ni Lacson sa panayam ng ABS-CBN News Channel.
“So development is stunted in some ways because funds that should have been available are returned to the Treasury and cannot be realigned for other needs,” dagdag ni Lacson.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson on Wednesday stressed the need to revisit the functions of the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), which is turning out to be a redundant agency.
Lacson said the PITC can potentially stunt national development since the funds “entrusted” to it for procurement cannot be used and realigned for urgent programs.
“The issue is this: If the agencies procure items via their own Bids and Awards Committees or the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service, the funds that are not used can be converted into savings. The President, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice are allowed by the Constitution to realign these to other items within their respective offices. But funds with the PITC become idle and are returned to the Treasury,” he said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.
“So development is stunted in some ways because funds that should have been available are returned to the Treasury and cannot be realigned for other needs,” he added.
Utilizing the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) for the procurement requirements of several national government agencies may have to be revisited and stopped, not only to save on unnecessary expenses amounting to billions of pesos in delays and commissions or service fees.
Since the creation of the Government Procurement Service under the Department of Budget and Management, the PITC may have outlived its purpose. Initially, it was only used to circumvent the procurement of medicines, especially for emergency needs. But later, it has expanded into the procurement of other items like rice.
That said, it is only prudent that the government at least take a long hard look at the involvement of the PITC in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
In his interpellation of the National Irrigation Administration’s budget for 2021, Sen. Lacson questioned appropriations for projects with a track record of delays and negative slippage. He also scored the Department of Budget and Management’s tagging of funds for important agricultural projects as “For Later Release.”
On the first day of floor deliberations on the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget bill, Sen. Lacson revealed several ‘skeleton projects‘ of the DPWH to illustrate “how acts of corruption are committed than by the misuse and abuse of public funds. Not anymore by the hundreds of thousands but by the millions of pesos wasted during implementation of the national budget.”
Sen. Lacson suggested that the funds for the skeleton projects, including at least P68B for multi-purpose buildings (MPBs) go to items that need funding more in the budget, such as the National Broadband Program. He also questioned the ‘FLR’ (For Later Release)practice of the DBM.
It is relatively easy to pass a law creating new departments. But would it be feasible, and will there be proper funding for it? The Department of Budget and Management says at least P1.5 billion is needed to set up the department. That does not yet include added salaries, capital outlay like office facilities, furniture, vehicles, MOOE, and CIF.
During the first public hearing last January, no less than the stakeholders who served as resource persons also cited concerns about creating a new department for disaster and risk reduction:
First, there is a policy direction for right-sizing the bureaucracy that is already bloated.
Second, the implementation especially of recovery and rehabilitation will be carried out not by the proposed new department but by existing agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health.
Third, we can see that the newly created departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development cannot be properly funded, or at least are not given the appropriate funding to work properly.
Having said that, a dedicated office under the Office of the President with a Cabinet rank and full authority to mobilize the concerned government agencies before, during and after calamities both natural and man-made – from policy-making and planning all the way to implementation – would do the job with much less funding and minimum number of staff and personnel. In contrast, a council-type organization like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has a very limited capability mainly because it is merely coordinative.