Vague, huge lump-sum funds in 2011 budget go against gov’t thrust of transparency

October 28, 2010

by superadmin

These huge lump-sum items should be completely justified with their purposes, programs and project specified.

With the 2011 national government budget approved by the House of Representatives in its third reading, research group IBON expressed concern over the PhP245-billion in vague lump-sum funds, or some 15% of the total budget.

These funds, composed of big budget items for no properly identified purpose, run contrary to the administration’s declared thrust of transparency and accountability, the research group said.

Among these lump-sum items are the following:

  1. PhP66.91-billion unprogrammed funds and PhP1-billion contingent fund subject to essentially presidential discretion. While this is at least an improvement from the massive PhP119.7-billion in equivalent funds during the last Arroyo budget for 2010, the amount is still double that allotted for the health department and triple the budget of state universities and colleges.
  2. PhP29.29-billion fund for the greatly expanded Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps) and National Household Targeting System. The DSWD has yet to properly establish that it has the capacity to implement the huge increase in the program and budget.
  3. PhP15-billion fund divided equally among three ambiguous “public-private partnership support funds” under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Department of Agriculture.
  4. PhP2.34-billion fund to the military for “support to national development” which is even a matter more appropriately left to civilian departments.
  5. PhP1.46 billion in intelligence funds, which is PhP403 million more than in Arroyo’s 2010 budget.
  6. PhP1.19 billion for “major information and communication technology projects”, which is reminiscent of the failed NBN-ZTE deal.
  7. The PhP24.82 billion for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which increased from PhP10.9 billion in 2010.

According to IBON, these huge lump-sum items should be completely justified with their purposes, programs and project specified. There should also be a significant, if not full, audit and itemization of funds use in time for the budget season next year. These, the group said, are some steps towards greater transparency.

Lastly, the powers of the Executive to withhold budget releases should also be clipped as these lump-sum funds often function as presidential pork barrel. Doing this undermines their patronage character and will make them less prone to abuse, IBON said. (end)