Recto: No more excuses for budget delays, underspending by gov’t
There should be no more excuses for budget delays and underspending under the five-year-old Duterte administration, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto reminded the country’s economic managers on Friday.
As the Senate and the House of Representatives set the stage for bicameral talks to finalize the proposed 2021 budget, the Senate leader admonished the executive branch to ensure the prompt release and utilization of next year’s appropriations.
In a statement, Recto said the Duterte administration should have gained enough budgeting experience over the past four-and-a-half years.
“It is but fair to expect that they have mastered the art of expeditious spending. That the underspending, low spending and no spending of the past five fiscal years are already things of the past,” he said.
On paper, national government agencies were able to disburse only 68 percent of their appropriations in 2017, 77 percent in 2018 and 82 percent in 2019, according to Recto.
Such a poor spending record has implications on development and the government’s programs against poverty.
“It is actually the people who paid the tuition for their long learning curve. Budget delayed is development denied,” Recto said.
“An unbuilt hospital is treatment of the sick postponed and an unfinished school building is education put on hold,” he said.
Recto said the need for on-time, on-budget, on-target spending was made particularly urgent by the demands of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The saying that the virus must be faster than the bureaucracy specifically applies on the speed funds travel from the treasury to the people. Rebooting a stalled economy calls for recharged spending,” he said.
“The budget is nothing but promises compiled in a thick wad of newsprint if what it authorizes are not implemented for the people’s benefit,” he said.
Ultimately, according to Recto, it’s the government’s failure to spend appropriations on time which is the culprit behind the “parking of funds” in other agencies.
“It is a recourse to meet the fund’s expiry date and artificially prolong its validity. To escape being returned to the treasury, these funds seek asylum in these agencies, where they assume the status of funds already obligated,” Recto said.
The Senate on Thursday passed its version of the P4.5-trillion general appropriations bill, a month after receiving the version approved by the House of Representatives.
On Dec. 1, contingents from both houses of Congress will meet in a bicameral conference to reconcile conflicting provisions in the budget measure.
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