Aguilar: Budget deliberation

Against the current

THIS is the season for budget deliberation in our local government units.

By this time, the mayors and governors have submitted already their proposed budget for 2020 to the city, municipal and provincial councils for deliberation.

This is a very crucial process as it can make or unmake the whole year depending on the quality of the budget proposed and how it is independently deliberated.

I would presume there should be independence in all aspects of deliberation in the council as this is at the heart of the check and balance principle between and among the different branches of our government.

This process also shows just how powerful the local legislative department as a body is, even more powerful than the mayor or the governor. Sadly most of them do not realize that.

You see, the legislative department is the gate keeper of all our local money. They have the power of the purse. Not a single peso can be spent without an appropriate ordinance from our city or municipal council. They can hold hostage a mayor with a zero budget if they want to. They can even freeze the whole operation of the LGU (local government unit) just by not approving the proposed budget.

By properly deliberating the budget they can dictate how the city or the municipality is run. They can dictate what programs, projects and activities will be given priority and what needs to be phased out to give room for new programs.

It is therefore crucial that city and municipal councilors should not act like puppets or stamping pads of the local chief executive. They have to be critical as much as they can. Only then can they really help the mayor and their LGU.

A council with an all “no” is not good, but a council with an all “yes” is even more dangerous. Our legislators, have to play the critical “no” or “yes” for a check and balance to work.

You see, the budget proposal is what it is -- a proposal. In short, there is no actual money yet involved. We cannot know for certain if their treasurer can collect such amount, especially if it is a bloated budget proposal.

Almost always budget proposals are bloated by the executive department so that they have a leeway to move and implement their programs. If unchecked, it can cause improper flow of limited resources where the basic services get jeopardized because of the open faucets created in the other aspects of the budget.

The moment the budget proposal is approved, it automatically becomes a law. As such it becomes a blanket power for the executive department to spend something they have not even collected yet. Making them spend our money not equitably. For example, they can hire more people even if there is no actual money to pay them yet. And just so to make these new hires happy, other projects will be sacrificed.

A bloated budget is not totally bad, please don’t get me wrong. Those things have their own advantages and disadvantages considering the kind of bureaucracy that we have. But with the kind of politics that we have as well, it is always safer to approve a conservative budget proposal.

This is therefore a call to all our councilmen in the different LGUs to be more critical in examining the executive budget proposal.

Let the executive department justify each of their programs. Trace the success rates and their respective impacts to the community. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Create a priority list and then scrap those that have never worked and will probably not work anymore to give room for new innovations.


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