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Senators to probe road user’s tax

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:15:00 09/21/2009

Filed Under: Road Transport, State Budget & Taxes, Government

MANILA, Philippines?Sen. Miriam-Defensor Santiago wants the administration to account for billions of pesos in road user?s tax, which she says is the ?biggest pork barrel unaccounted for in the government.?

Claiming that there is ?grand theft? involved, Santiago, chair of the committee on economic affairs, is set to call for a Senate probe next week of the road user?s tax.

The senator said on dzBB radio Sunday that the tax had already generated P42 billion since 2001. The tax is collected from vehicle owners annually and is used for road maintenance and transport infrastructure.

Because no oversight committee in Congress looks into how authorities are spending the money, the revenue from the road user?s tax is being spent frivolously, Santiago said.

Last year alone, tax collections reached almost P10 billion, but P8 billion could not be accounted for, according to Santiago.

The tax is being overseen by a road board, which has as members certain Cabinet members, but executive directors are the ones determining how proceeds of the tax would be spent, the senator said.

COA demands

?These executive directors had not been heeding the repeated demands by the Commission on Audit for them not to touch the tax,? Santiago said.

She said these officials had not accounted for how the proceeds were spent since 2001.

Santiago said she learned that these officials would give the proceeds to certain local governments they favored.

While there were guidelines on how the tax should be used, these were being ?violated with impunity,? she said.

Santiago said the road user?s tax was bigger than the pork barrel of Congress or even that of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The senator said she would ask authorities how they spent the tax since 2001.

?Imagine, if this money is stolen. That?s billions every year,? Santiago said on Nimfa Rogado-Ravelo?s program on dzBB.



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