MANILA, Philippines—The Senate would be able to save P140 million in 2013 after senators decided to fund just 20 out of the more than 30 oversight committees that have been given multimillion-peso budgets over the past years, Sen. Ralph Recto said on Tuesday.
Recto, the Senate President Pro Tempore, indicated that none of it would be turned into bonuses for senators or their staff or realigned to other expenses.
“It will be returned to the treasury,” Recto told reporters before the Senate session Tuesday afternoon.
Recto said the oversight committees that would remain operational would have a total budget of P400 million out of the initial allocation of P540 million for all the oversight panels. He said the oversight panels would be given uniform budgets unlike before.
“Only 20 oversight committees will be given funds. So each senator will be asked to pick which [he wants to chair] based on what he or she thinks is his or her advocacy,” Recto told reporters before the Senate session on Tuesday afternoon.
The four senators that will not have an oversight committee chairmanship are the officers—Senate President Franklin Drilon, Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Recto.
“[The allocations for 2014] will still be discussed because the budget has just been submitted to Congress. But clearly, you can see… substantial savings,” said Recto, a party mate in Liberal Party of both President Aquino and Drilon.
Enrile earlier this year raised the issue of the huge operating expenses of oversight committees chaired by his critics after some of his colleagues cast doubts on the propriety of the disbursement of the chamber’s MOOE during his leadership as Senate President.
Oversight committees in the Senate are panels created either by law or by a resolution to monitor the implementation of laws passed by Congress. Depending on the scope of the oversight committees, their budgets range from P6 million to more than P37 million in 2012.
These oversight committees conduct its functions apart from the permanent committees that conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.
Amid allegations of misuse of billions of pesos in some senators’ pork barrel funds and on the heels of the maintenance and other operating expenses controversy early this year, the Senate leadership is seeking reforms in the disbursement of the chamber’s budget.
“We will rationalize the oversight committees so that we will be able to save funds by the end of the year,” Drilon told reporters after a caucus on Monday afternoon.
“We are working on it and there is a consensus that we will have to rationalize the oversight committees with the end in view of saving funds at the end of the year,” Drilon added.
“We are looking at least P50 million in year-round savings for 2013. It could be an annual savings because we only have five months left,” Drilon said.