Press Release
November 27, 2016

'Agencies must spend the buck and not pass the buck'

There is an emerging bad habit among agencies to transfer their allocations to other agencies and then report such transactions as fund utilization.

In the case of the Department of Transportation, this is the scheme resorted to in its unused budget for airport improvement - through an 11th hour delegation of funds to CAAP, in a bid to beat the two-year expiry date of the appropriations.

Other agencies with expiring appropriations have found it convenient to laterally move them to the little-known agency called Procurement Service, and then misleadingly report it as fund utilization.

The rule ought to be this : Agencies must spend the buck and not pass the buck. Transferring funds to another government agency is not fund utilization. It is not procurement, but an accounting trick to prettify the books in order to give out a glowing report card.

This loophole in public expenditure management should be plugged, otherwise agencies, instead of expeditiously commencing projects, would simply exercise the option of unloading unused appropriations on fellow agencies.

Fund utilization through MOA is not spending; it is the budgetary version of the classic shell game, in which money is transferred from one government pocket to another government pocket.

Parang binigyan mo ang isang tao nang pambili ng bigas na kakainin. Hindi nabili at walang nasaing at napakain. Ang ginawa nya ay ibinigay ang pambili sa kapitbahay at irereport nya na nagasta na ang pera.

To lessen spending backlogs and accelerate project implementation, agencies with infrastructure budget should first resolve the technical deficit within their ranks.

This can be done by hiring or commissioning the services of more technical people, like engineers and procurement specialists. Fewer lawyers to look into contracts, more engineers to implement those contracts.

This is one important requisite before we usher the era of the promised infrastructure boom. Otherwise, more funds in the pipeline will only cause budgetary indigestion to agencies overwhelmed by too much funds and projects on their plate.

This is the big inherited problem of Secretary Tugade, a professional and a good man. He needs all the help he can get in turbo-boosting the absorptive capacity of DOTr.

DOTr has an outstanding unobligated fund of P38.8 billion as of Oct. 31, 2017. Of this, P17.9 billion represented 2015 unobligated funds, while P20.9 billion is for the current year.

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