2014 budget, not the devil, is in the details
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) says it will respond in five to seven minutes to 87 percent of some 5,000 distress calls it expects to receive next year.
Such “performance benchmarks” are a unique new feature of the proposed P2.26-trillion budget for 2014 that President Benigno Aquino III submitted to Congress this week. Already a voluminous document in itself, the proposed expenditure program has attached to it the specifics that government agencies intend to deliver if they are given the funds that they are asking for.
“[It] is the single most important budgeting innovation in years,” said a pleasantly amused Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who formerly chaired the Senate committee on ways and means and is a partymate of the President in the Liberal Party.
Recto said Mr. Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad deserve to be congratulated for the innovation.
“The 2014 national budget has gone micro and I would even say that it has gone overboard in detailing what an agency must deliver,” he said.
“They are now counting the beans … In the past, the budget of an agency contained only the amount. The one for 2014 includes performance benchmarks. The peso sign now comes with a performance guarantee,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Francis Escudero, the chair of the Senate committee on finance that will go over the budget bill, said it was a welcome variation but could make for lengthier debates during the budget hearings and, perhaps, even on the floor.
Police patrols to escapees
“This is a unique budget presented by the executive. I expect a bit more debates on it. It’s different but in a good way because for the first time, the executive branch put in each agency’s mission, vision, target and accomplishment rates,” Escudero told a radio interview.
Recto noted that one of the Philippine National Police’s expected outputs are “a minimum 629,258 crime investigations to be conducted next year and a vow to increase by 25 percent the number of foot and mobile patrols.”
In its budget proposal, the BFP commits that it will have a five-minute to seven-minute response time to 87 percent of the 5,185 distress calls it expects to get in 2014, he said.
Recto was particularly amused by the prisons bureau’s stated target.
“Perhaps citing historical records, the Bureau of Corrections said that no more than 89 prisoners will escape but 100 percent of them will be recaptured,” he said.
Even the normally secretive national defense units got into the spirit of the thing.
“The National Arsenal said it will churn out 30 million ammunition rounds. From the Army comes this assurance that 90 percent of its 176 tactical battalions can be made combat-ready within one hour upon receipt of orders from higher authorities,” Recto said.
The National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency has chosen not to invoke secrecy as it has made public its deliverables of 39,215 intelligence reports in 2014, he said.
“The beauty of requiring these promissory notes is that big-ticket items get unbundled,” Recto said.
“In the case of the Department of Public Works and Highways, its budget says 1,022 gravel roads will be paved while 605 kilometers of national roads will be built. The Department of Agriculture has also indicated that it will repair 1,500 kilometers of farm roads,“ he said.
Recto said one major recipient of funds for 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), has attached a menu of targets to its budget request.
2.6 million meals
In addition to the beneficiaries of its “mega P62.6 billion” cash transfer program, the DSWD undertakes to serve meals to 2,568,811 schoolchildren next year.
The Department of Education has pledged an 84 percent National Achievement Test passing rate for 12.56 million secondary school students, Recto said.
“This proposed budget has left no stone unturned. Even the expected number of visitors in the country’s museums was included in the computation,” Recto said.
State-run museums expect to open their doors to nearly 900,000 visitors next year.