House leaders not keen on reenacted 2019 budget
Updated (5:48 p.m.)
Leaders of the House of Representatives are not backing down from the move to block the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) proposed cash-based budget system but not really keen on a reenacted budget for 2019.
Majority Leader and Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr. has dismissed any plan to go for a reenacted 2019 budget, a possibility raised by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
READ: Senate President raises possibility of reenacted budget in 2019
“There will be no reenacted budget scenario. We’re not moving towards that, we will avoid having the reenacted budget like leptospirosis,” he said in a Monday press briefing.
Andaya added that the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) should be “upfront” in relaying to the lower chamber the possible revenue and expenditure scenarios under its proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 cash-based budget because they were “getting mixed signals” on the issue.
“We’re getting mixed signals… on what their budget proposals are. So I think it’s about time na tumigil muna kami sa pag-hear ng budget and make sense of it (So I think it’s about time that we stop the budget hearings first and make sense of it),” the lawmaker said.
The chamber has suspended their scheduled budget hearings because of the issue.
“Dapat maging upfront ‘yung DBCC sa revenue scenario…(The DBCC should be upfront about the revenue scenario…)” he added, noting that Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants the same thing.
If Congress fails to pass the budget or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) before the end of the year, the 2018 budget will be reenacted, a scenario which has historically given the sitting President wider latitude to spend funds already appropriated in the current year, automatically appearing as savings.
Appropriations committee chair Rep. Karlo Nograles has also brushed off the possibility of a reenacted budget, saying that the DBM still has time to correct their budget proposal and revert to an obligation-based budget.
Diokno earlier said that they could not submit another version of the 2019 budget that is “obligation-based.”
“We’re hopeful that the DBM will be able to address these concerns and the reason why we’re suspending the budget hearings is because the House has already created a decision to go to an obligations-based budget and because we’re going to the obligation-based, what use would be the hearings conducted… if the assumptions used on the budgets were based on cash-based [budgeting]?” Nograles explained in a briefing.
He also said he would meet with DBM officials later on Monday to discuss their concerns.
The lawmaker also warned that cash-based budgeting has affected some departments’ proposed key programs such as the Department of Health’s health facilities enhancement program and the Department of Public Works and Highways’ flood-control and drainage projects.
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, a former chair of the House appropriations panel who was also a Budget undersecretary, explained that under a cash-based budgeting, only projects and programs which are implementable for completion and payment within the fiscal year and during the three-month extension period after the yearend are included for funding in the GAA.
Meanwhile, under the obligation-based budgeting, the implementation, completion, and payment of the projects and programs in the GAA could be made beyond the yearend provided they are obligated within the fiscal year by contract or other modes of incurring an obligation.
‘Too much too soon’
Nograles said they are not totally “closing down their door” to the cash-based budget system, but he said this “might be too much, too soon.”
“The concept is good, we all fell in love with the concept, kasi maganda, based on management point of view, based on utilization of funds, based on taking away the under-utilization and non-utilization…” he said.
“All we’re saying is maybe this 2019 budget is not the right time to do it. Let’s allow first the departments and agencies to catch up, improve their utilization. They’re already improving obligation rate nila, let them improve their utilization, give them a chance,” he added.
Nograles said government agencies should be allowed to “catch up” first, noting that their obligations rate has improved to 95 percent.
“Ang sinasabi lang po namin (What we are saying is), it might be too much too soon. Remember in the previous administration, nasanay ang mga departments and agencies in a two-year lifespan budget ‘di ba. Two years for them to consume, finish, utilize the budgets. So naging mabagal po. Nagkaron ng underspending in the previous administration. When this new administration came in, we adjusted it to no more two years, one year na lang po. So within one year, you use it or lose it, that was the policy,” he continued.
Nograles also said the budgeting system might be more appropriate for 2020. /ee
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