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P424B pork in 2015 budget–Lacson

Former Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Former Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Lump-sum or discretionary funds, which are prone to corruption, can still be found in the national budget for this year, according to former Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson has placed the lump-sum appropriations at P424 billion, an amount that could still go up.

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The former senator said he and his team discovered lump-sum appropriations in the national budget while they were reviewing the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

“To date… we have already discovered a total of P424 billion worth of lump-sum appropriations, a.k.a. discretionary funds, parked in the budget of just 11 of the 21 major line agencies of the national government. Hold your breath. It is still counting,” Lacson said in a speech before the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City.

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“As professional accountants serving the interest of the public, I may speak on your behalf when I frown upon discretionary funds as these are prone to misuse and corruption,” Lacson said.

He said the government lost P10 billion in the scam allegedly perpetuated by Janet Lim-Napoles with the connivance of lawmakers in misusing their pork barrel fund, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Unconstitutional

Amid protests nationwide for the scrapping of PDAF and other corruption-prone lump-sum budget items, the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional in November 2013.

In July last year, the high court declared unconstitutional parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), pooled funds from savings of agencies that financed projects outside the approved national budget.

Lump-sum funds included the President’s Social Fund, Special Purpose Funds and Malampaya Fund, the People’s Initiative against Pork Barrel said last year.

The group’s proposed Pork Barrel Abolition Act sought to prohibit the inclusion of pork barrel or lump-sum funds in the budget, except calamity and intelligence or confidential funds. It also sought to require line-item appropriations for all proposed budgets.

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The bill proposed to abolish the President’s Social Fund and require all unspent, unobligated and unreleased funds to revert to the general fund by the end of the fiscal year.

Missing budget codes

Lacson said his team looked into the appropriations of the agencies in the 2015 budget when they were analyzing the new coding system, or the United Accounts Code Structure (UACS), in the government financial processes.

In a random analysis of the coding system of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the team found missing codes, the former senator said.

For insertions

“To our surprise, such ‘missing codes’ were utilized to insert some projects during the budget deliberations in the House of Representatives,” he said.

Lacson said his team discovered a lump sum of P11.3 billion in the NIA budget.

Curious about the discovery, Lacson said his group looked into the appropriations of other agencies.

Of the P39 billion budget of the Department of Agriculture, for instance, P6.25 billion for farm-to-market roads were lump sums, he said.

Lacson said this budget, based on the national expenditures program as well as the Senate and House versions of the GAA bill, should have been allocated to regional offices.

Lacson said his group was surprised when it found out that these “regional lump sums” disappeared in the 2015 GAA and were replaced by 1,389 line budget items for farm-to-market road projects in different parts of the country.

“Does this mean the return of the ghost of PDAF, which had earlier been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling on July 1, 2014?” he said.

Lump sums by department

Lump sums of different departments, an agency and the police that Lacson’s group found:

— Department of Social Welfare and Development, P102.6 billion;

— Department of Education, P80.7 billion;

— Department of Interior and Local Government, P80.7 billion;

— Department of Health, P75.4 billion;

— Department of National Defense, P66.4 billion;

— Department of Agriculture, P29.9 billion;

— Department of Public Works and Highways, P11.4 billion;

— Department of Transportation and Communications, P11.4 billion;

— National Irrigation Authority, P13 billion;

— Philippine National Police, P6.7 billion;

— Department of Environment and Natural Resources, P6.1 billion

Lacson wondered whether the DAP had been revived.

Reincarnation

“After the PDAF, we also discovered the obvious reincarnation of the SC unconstitutionality declared Budget Circular No. 541, which earlier gave the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) the authority to pool and declare as savings unobligated, unutilized and unreleased appropriations, not at the end of the fiscal year but the second quarter,” he said.

“We found it in Section 70 and Section 73 of the General Provision of the 2015 GAA. Are we now looking at the rebirth of the DAP?” Lacson said.

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TAGS: discretionary funds, Edwin Lacierda, lump sum, lump sum appropriations, National Budget, Panfilo Lacson, Pork barrel
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