MANILA, Philippines— As much as P75-billion worth of unobligated funds were withdrawn from various agencies of the government back in 2012, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad told lawmakers on Wednesday.
He told members of the House committee on appropriations that there were agencies which underspent the budget allotted for them in 2012 and the unobligated funds were mostly realigned to either ease deficit or used to fund other programs.
He was responding to Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares’ query on unobligated funds which he said could have gone to projects that were not indicated in the General Appropriations Act of 2012.
Abad said that as part of the reforms on proposing the national budget, the government now gives its agencies one year to utilize their funding otherwise these could be withdrawn and used elsewhere.
“We are now following reforms to accelerate the implementation of government programs and services such as the one-year lapsing of appropriations. By the end of the year, if the appropriation has not been issued any allotment or an allotment has not been obligated, you can’t carry it over next year,” he said.
The Budget chief said that the government sought to avoid losing money due to interest on these unused borrowed funds.
Abad identified the following as the following as the eight agencies which underspent its funding in 2012:
– Department of Public Works and Highways
– Department of Education
– Department of Social Welfare and Development
– Department of Health
– Department of Agriculture
– Department of Agrarian Reform
– Department of Environment and Natural Resources
– Department of Transportation and Communications
Most funds withdrawn from these agencies were realigned and used in other projects like the creation of roads and classrooms, according to the DBM official.
But Abad clarified that some of these agencies accumulated unobligated funds due to the seasonality of some of its functions of projects.
“Like teachers for the DepEd, they are employed sometime in June or the DENR’s greening project which can only be started during the rainy season. And I have seen the numbers and the DSWD, DPWH, and DepEd have actually performed quite remarkably,” he said.
Colmenares however said he was worried that the unobligated funds were being used to implement projects that were not scrutinized by lawmakers in the GAA 2012.
“I am concerned with it being used to fund projects not deliberated under the GAA 2012. We work hard to scrutinize the budget proposals here but in the end the President can realign this to a project we have never seen before,” he said.
“If the project was not part of the budget deliberations, I have this impression that it could be violative of the Constitution,” Colmenares added.
But Abad assured him that unobligated funds were realigned to “existing” projects and dismissed Colmenares’ claim that the funds could have been used in projects which were not part of the GAA 2012.
“The word augment implies that the project already exists. We cannot fund an item that does not exist,” said the DBM official.