House added P9B to 2019 budget without asking DBM — Senate probe
Without consulting the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the House of Representatives increased the budget for assistance to local government units (ALGU) by P9 billion, deliberations in the Senate on the 2019 proposed national budget showed Thursday.
Senator Panfilo Lacson pointed out that in the National Expenditure Program (NEP), the ALGU had a budget of P7 billion, but in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) from the Lower House it was raised to P16 billion.
“Nakonsulta ba yung ahensya, which is DBM, when the amount P7 billion ballooned to P16 billion?,” Lacson asked.
“I don’t think so, Mr. President. Because from the NEP to the increase in the GAB, I don’t think Secretary (Benjamin) Diokno was consulted on the increases,” Senator Loren Legarda, who was defending the national budget as chair of the Senate committee on finance, said.
“Again, would it not constitute with abuse of discretion? And if DBM was not consulted? Who will implement? So again the legislators will be implementing?,” Lacson asked.
Legarda explained that this is not a “lumpsum” because only the LGUs can request funding from the DBM and the documentary requirement is “tedious and bloody.”
“They (lawmakers) are barred from request for this because as it aptly says that it is a financial assistance to local government units. And just like we discussed yesterday, this must be vetted or requested from the LDC (local development council) level,” Legarda said.
She added that the financial assistance would seek to respond to the needs of poor members of rural communities.
“What you mentioned is the menu but where are the items? If there are no items, then it follows that this is a lumpsum appropriation,” Lacson insisted.
“I don’t mind if we amend, we realign as long as we consult or it is upon the agency or agencies concerned. I will have no problem with that. I will have a problem if it’s discretionary or arbitrary on the part of the legislators,” Lacson added.
Legarda insisted that the fund is for LGUs and not for legislators. /cbb
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