Editorial: Less room for trickery-A A +A
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
HAD it been openly discussed, the decision to give selected legislators more project funds would not have reaped so much distrust.
But the discovery of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) couldn’t have come at a worse time for the national government, which still faces public outrage over allegations that billions disappeared in allegedly fake non-government organizations (NGOs).
In a statement yesterday, Chairperson Maria Grace Pulido-Tan said the Commission on Audit (COA) will now examine the DAP releases and reveal its findings. Its latest audit on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) covered only the procurement service and the procurement policy board, and said nothing about the DAP.
Nearly lost in the din is the proposal to let members of Congress propose up to P24.5 million each in infrastructure projects in 2014, for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to implement.
On at least two counts, the proposal could work.
First, it involves local, tangible projects, which would be easier to monitor and audit. Second, the amount is far smaller than what legislators used to get—about P15.5 million less than what congressmen were previously allowed to earmark for infrastructure. Smaller amounts will, one hopes, leave less room for financial trickery.
But for the plan to work, the DPWH and every legislator who sends the agency its proposals must be made to disclose the details: where the projects will be, who will get to implement them, for how long and at what cost. Legislators, too, will have to justify better the projects they choose to push. Now that they’ll have less to work with, a few more multi-purpose buildings will seem frivolous when more urgently needed projects, like flood control, remain undone.
DPWH’s transparency will be critical, considering that it will get the bulk of the P25.2 billion would otherwise have been allocated as Priority Development Assistance Funds.
For a public made weary by reports of corruption, the challenge will be to maintain an open mind and a belief that change remains doable. Whatever form the former “pork barrel” takes, the public has to be ready to keep watching where it goes.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 02, 2013.