DBM: P84B ‘introduced by Congress’ withheld

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    MALACAÑANG yesterday confirmed that it has withheld the release of more than P80 billion worth of funds in the 2020 national budget which will be placed on standby until conditions set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) are met.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado had told him that the DBM will only release the P84 billion once specifics item for their disbursement and documentary support are submitted.

    “I talked with the Budget Secretary. He said that the P84 billion will not be released immediately but depending on the need for the release thereof. In other words, there will be a process,” Panelo said.

    Panelo could not say if the P84 billion is the same as the P80 billion fund that Sen. Panfilo Lacson claimed had been realigned by some congressmen from the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program to their “pet projects.”

    The DBM, in a statement, said that increases and new budgetary items introduced by Congress in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) will undergo compliance with documentary requirements to ensure that funds will only be for projects that are implementation-ready and within government priorities.

    It said that when President Duterte approved the P4.1 trillion budget for 2020, he called attention to some “increases and new budgetary items introduced… by Congress” which are not part of the proposed budget of the administration.

    In his budget message, Duterte had said that the increases and new budgetary items introduced by Congress shall be subject to “the national government’s cash programming and prudent observance of responsible fiscal management, applicable rules and procedures during budget execution, and approval by the President based on the programmed priorities of the government.”

    “Inasmuch as said increases and new items have corresponding effects in the respective outputs and outcomes of the agencies concerned, the DBM shall inform the agencies of the changes in their respective appropriations and require the submission of documents to ensure their implementation-readiness and alignment with the programmed priorities of the government,” he also said.

    The DBM said the discovery of the congressional insertions prompted the introduction of conditional requirements like certain documentations before any budgets are released for the questionable items.

    The DBM has issued National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 578 dated January 6, 2020 which contained the guidelines for the release of funds and the classification of the releases.

    Releases are classified into two: For Comprehensive Release (FCR), for items to be released with the GAA as the Allotment Order (GAAAO); and For Later Release (FLR), for items to be released using the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) or General Allotment Release Order (GARO).

    The FLR items shall be subject to compliance with specific conditions, such as documentary requirements and approvals from appropriate authorities.

    “The Congress-introduced increases in appropriations and new budgetary items in the FY 2020 GAA which did not undergo the usual budget evaluation process, thus, were not part of the President’s Proposed Budget (National Expenditure Program) will be subjected to compliance with documentation requirements to serve as basis for the DBM in recommending the release of funds for the President’s approval/directive. This shall ensure that government funds shall be made available only for projects which are implementation-ready for the year and aligned with government priorities,” DBM said. – With Angela Celis