By Christine F. Herrera
Manila Standard Today
As early as 2010, the Commission on Audit has recommended to President Benigno Aquino III the scrapping of the now P317-billion Special Purpose Fund and P117-billion unprogrammed funds to avoid “distortion and duplication” in the budget.
This was revealed by former National Treasurer Leonor Briones on Monday during an interview with Manila Standard Today.
Briones, a convenor of the Social Watch Philippines (SWP) with around 100 NGO members like the Alternative Budget Initiatives (ABI), said the special fund or lump sum appropriations, could be a potential source of corruption, considering that the President can realign the funds to suit his purpose during elections next year. These funds would amount to “pork barrel,” she said.
“The COA, in its findings and recommendations in 2010, said the SPF should be deleted because everything in the budget should be clear and transparent. There should be no room for budgets with only general assumptions and no details,” Briones said.
The COA wanted the SPF removed because the public would only know the details of the allocated items or where the money went one year after the money had already been spent.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad vowed to provide Congress with the details of SPF before this could be approved on third and final reading.
Briones said the COA made the recommendation based on its findings in 2008 and 2009 that the government had exceeded the budget because of lump sum appropriations.
“For example, the total 2013 appropriation for the Department of Public Works and Highways is P151.76 billion. But since there were projects under the SPF such as the P1 billion for Department of Education Program, the infrastructure projects under the legislators’ P24.89 billion pork barrel that will be transferred later on to DPWH to implement the projects, the allocated funds for DPWH will balloon and thus will be distorted,” Briones said.
“In short, instead of P151.76 billion, when you add the two items under the SPF to the DPWH total budget, this would amount to P177.65 billion when the public was made to believe that they would only shell out P151.76 billion for infrastructure projects,”she said.
This, she said, was only a fraction of what was actually hidden under the vague SPF and unprogrammed funds, a standby appropriations, which would authorize additional expenditures in excess of the original budget.
This item would be implemented only when revenue collections exceed the resource targets assumed in the budget, or when additional foreign project loan proceeds were realized.
“In fact, the hidden and vague SPF and unprogrammed funds would now bring a total of P434 billion under President Aquino’s discretion,” Briones said.