(UPDATED) Malacanang said Friday that the removal of special allotment release orders (SAROs) before implementing government projects could lessen opportunities for corruption.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing that this new mechanism being implemented by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) could also speed up building major infrastructure projects.

“It will be easier for them (agencies) to front-load projects, at least ideally within the first week of January, you can already award projects,” she said.

Valte said that with the current system, agencies can do their pre-procurement activities immediately after the approval of the national budget and not wait for several weeks before starting the process.

She said that ideally, by first week of January, agencies can start issuing notice of award.

In previous years, she noted that government agencies had to wait for SAROs before they could start pre-procurement process since the SAROs served as the green light for the agencies.

“More importantly binabawasan nang pagtanggal nung requirement ng GAA (General Appropriations Act) as a release document ang red tape or the papers that have to be accomplished and submitted; and you lessen opportunities for corruption because there is less red tape,” Valte said.

Asked how the abolition of SAROs shield government projects from anomalies, she said government agencies are now more transparent and responsible.

At the same time, government agencies have to follow the legal process when it comes to procurement, disbursement, and liquidation. This safeguard is in addition to the audit and assessment being done by the Commission on Audit, she said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is currently probing the alleged circulation of fake SAROs involving P879 million in farm-to-market road projects in some regions.

It has until the end of January to submit recommendations and findings regarding the fraudulent scheme of peddling bogus SAROs to politicians.

"I anticipate that part of the recommendations is the filing of charges doon sa may kinalaman sa pag-issue ng fake SAROs. May mga natukoy na sila na personnel ng DBM and congressional staff," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

De Lima declined to comment whether the testimonies gathered so far by the NBI will implicate high government officials.

While the government is removing SAROs, Valte admitted that special purpose funds and lump sum funds, which are usually under the Office of the President, still need SARO given their lump sum nature.

Calamity fund for instance need SARO because certain criteria mandated by law has to be met before a request is approved, she said.

The Palace official also said that the DBM is already in the process of computerizing the issuance of SAROs for lump sum items to speed up the process. Under the 2014 GAA, the DBM said that this document already stands as the primary budget release document.

This means that all the disaggregated budget items in the GAA are already considered released to their respective agencies, with the exception of lump-sum funds that have yet to be itemized, and which will require prior approval before their release, the Budget department said. (SDR/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)