After several weeks of committee deliberations on the 2019 national budget by the House Committee on Appropriations, the Lower House is now gearing up for the tedious plenary deliberations.
Budget deliberations is an opportune time for legislators to scrutinize the proposed new appropriations of government agencies to ensure that their proposed budgets clearly reflect their projects and programs for the benefit of the Filipinos.
Based on records, most government agencies fail to efficiently utilize their respective budgets each fiscal year. In fiscal management, a low absorptive capacity of a government agency is a clear indicator of inefficiency. Therefore, the bigger chunk of our nation’s wealth is not being used effectively for the delivery of basic services.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development is one of the government agencies with low absorptive capacity. It is the main agency tasked to deliver social services. Furthermore, it is mandated to uplift the well-being of poor Filipinos, particularly to free the Filipinos from poverty and hunger. DSWD’s average utilization rate from 2013 to 2016 is only 88.78 percent. Last year, the department’s utilization rate dropped to 79.5 percent. From 2013 to 2017, the unused appropriations of the Office of the Secretary alone averaged at P15.9 billion per year. Per the report of the Commission on Audit, most of the unused appropriations were due to the delays and discontinuation of implementation of several projects and programs of the department. As an example, DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program, which is a multi-year program, gets discontinued on the second year due to the dissolution of the beneficiary associations.
It is important to note that during last year’s budget deliberations in the plenary, the Minority lawmakers, including myself, called for the downloading of funds to the local government units. This year, the House Committee on Appropriations also proposed to increase the Internal Revenue Allotment share of Local Government Units to 60 percent. This would require amendatory legislation. Currently, the LGUs get a 40-percent share from the national government’s internal revenue collection, while 60 percent is allocated to the national government.
The inefficient spending of the national government implies ineffective delivery of government services. As a practical matter, LGUs, most especially municipalities and barangays, can be considered as the most effective in disbursing funds because they are on the front line of delivery of basic social services. They have on-the-ground knowledge and experience in determining the needs of their communities.
In broad strokes, the Minority would support such legislation as it allows for fiscal autonomy, self-determination and independence from the National Government. It will also ease the bottleneck in centralized spending.