DBM explains errors on COA report on pork barrel-A A +A
Thursday, August 22, 2013
THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) clarified Thursday several issues related to the release of priority development and assistance funds (PDAF) and allocations for various infrastructures including local projects (VILP) following the Commission on Audit's (COA) report on the use of these funds from 2007 to 2009.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that there were "some inaccuracies" in the COA report.
"Together with the Filipino public, we in DBM hold COA's methodology in great esteem. We appreciate the meticulousness and accuracy of their work, particularly with respect to the latest report issued on the use of PDAF and VILP. Nonetheless, we'd like to clear up some inaccuracies in the report, particularly those that are directly related to DBM's handling of these funds from 2007-2009," he said.
On the P20 million allocation and was released to a certain "Luis Abalos," whom the COA noted was not a member of the 13th and 14th Congress, the DBM said that there was an encoding error in the matrix of legislators submitted to COA.
The P20 million in question should have been attributed to former Representative Benjamin "Benhur" Abalos, Jr., the budget agency said.
DBM also explained that P3 billion in PDAF was mistakenly attributed to Representative Manuel Zamora, after it was discovered that a Special Allotment Release Order (Saro) issued to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the Preventive Maintenance of National Roads and Bridges nationwide shared the same Saro number (A-07-9539) with a PDAF allocation earlier released to Zamora.
The PDAF release made to Zamora amounted to just P500,000, bringing the third tranche of his Congressional Allocation for 2007 to only P10 million.
Abad also said that a P40-million allocation attributed by the COA report to then-Senator Benigno Aquino III was not actually released during that period. Although the Saro for the former Senator's PDAF request had already been approved, the Saro was ultimately not issued and the funds had gone unused.
The Budget chief explained that during the period covered by COA's audit, there was no recommended limit or ceiling to the PDAF released to legislators.
"Before the Aquino administration, there was no cap on PDAF releases made to our lawmakers. There was a minimum amount, yes, but no ceilings were set for it. In 2011, however, we established a cap on PDAF allocations, with P70 million set for representatives and P200 million for senators," he said.
"Even then, a legislator can still request funds beyond the allocation already set for him, subject to DBM's approval. This is particularly true in humanitarian cases with urgent aid requirements, such as the release of allocations from the Calamity Fund for a legislator's disaster-stricken constituents," he added.
Abad also said that during the period covered by the COA audit, PDAF use was relegated only to "soft" projects, including social services and livelihood and training programs. Meanwhile, infrastructure, public works, and other activities classified as "hard" projects were funded through legislators' VILP.
"A crucial budget reform under this Administration is the merging and streamlining of 'soft' and 'hard' projects under PDAF, which eliminated the need for a separate VILP allocation for our lawmakers. Not only did this make fund oversight more efficient; the fact that legislators only have PDAF to work with encourages them to be more judicious in weighing their development projects against the resources available to them," Abad explained. (SDR/Sunnex)