Editorial: Better foresight needed

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014


PUBLIC Works Secretary Rogelio Singson announced yesterday that his department will pursue urgently needed flood control projects, despite the Supreme Court's ruling that found parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal.

Singson, in an interview over ANC, said he was convinced that since these are not cross-border projects but funded entirely by "savings" within the department or the Executive Branch, these would not run afoul of the court's decision.

Since President Benigno Aquino III preempted the most popular soap operas last week to defend the DAP, various Cabinet secretaries have spoken up to extend his argument. The official line is that without the DAP, important projects would have lain idle, unable to draw funds until the need for the projects had long passed. Or, worse, long after citizens had drowned in their homes or suffered the other consequences of government's inability to act.

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One key question the DAP controversy has unveiled is this: how can the government provide itself with enough flexibility to respond to emergencies (among others, release sufficient funds quickly), and at the same time uphold procurement laws and the Constitution, and meet the public's need for transparency?

Better foresight might help. Singson himself admitted that the department's Quick Response Fund to address calamities amounts to around P600 million this year. That is only one-third of the damage to public infrastructure caused by the M7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu last year. In these days of super-calamities, that is no longer sufficient.

We hear "the lack of funds" so often cited to explain the sluggishness of government projects that it has become almost meaningless. This is why the Executive Branch's line-that the DAP was needed, to fix problems fast-is so seductive. Yet is there really no way to prepare budgets that will enable all of government's levels, from the barangay to the Palace, to solve familiar problems more quickly?

Even as it rejected parts of the DAP, the High Court agreed that it "yielded undeniably positive results that enhanced the economic welfare of the country." Is there a way such initiatives can be taken, without endangering that necessary balance among government's co-equal branches?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 23, 2014.

Opinion

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