Poe to DICT: Explain how confidential funds were spent
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should account for the P1.2 billion in confidential funds it received in 2019 and 2020 before asking Congress to allot P300 million for the same purpose for 2024, Sen. Grace Poe said on Sunday.
Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee, said the DICT’s request should be consistent with the guidelines issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) for the use of lump-sum allocations for covert activities of civilian state agencies.
She also questioned the department’s capacity to properly disburse its budget, pointing out that so far, it has spent only 30 percent of the funding it received this year.
“Their utilization rate is really low,” Poe told radio dzBB.
Justify the request
“While they could not even spend the money given to them, they are now asking for [an] additional budget,” she said. “If they insist that having confidential funds was important to them in investigating text scams, then it should be within what COA allows.”
State auditors, she noted, had flagged the DICT for the confidential funds it previously spent.
“Until now, COA has yet to be clarified how these funds were used and if these were already covered by [a notice of] disallowance,” Poe said.
She added that Information and Communications Technology Secretary John Ivan Uy should justify his request for P300 million in confidential funds during the Senate budget deliberations on Tuesday.
Last week, Uy said they needed the amount to finance their programs in combating text scams and other forms of internet fraud.
“We have invited the COA and asked them to bring their [audit] report on the [DICT’s confidential] funds,” Poe said.
‘Not in our mandate’
In February 2020, then Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. quit his post after disclosing that the DICT had used its confidential funds for intelligence and surveillance activities.
“My original position has always been [that] the DICT cannot use a confidential fund because it’s not in our mandate to do intelligence and surveillance work,” he told the Inquirer in an interview after his resignation.
The DICT is the main planning body to improve public access, promote consumer protection and industry development in addition to formulating the country’s cybersecurity policy.
Rio claimed the covert operations were ordered by then Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II. INQ