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House to grill former Philippine budget secretary on infra spending
Publication Date : 07-05-2014
The committee on good government and public accountability of the Philippine House of Representatives plans to question former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya about the release of 10.2 billion pesos (US$230 million) for public works projects during a spending binge in the last six months of the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo.
The committee is looking into whether the release of the funds from budget insertions was proper, noting a condition attached in the 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA) specifying when the amounts could be disbursed. It is also awaiting a Commission on Audit (COA) report on whether the projects were properly implemented.
Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, the committee chair, said Monday that if necessary, the panel would inform Andaya, now a Camarines Sur representative, that he needed to clarify transactions when he was secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2006 to 2010.
Rodriguez said Andaya, being a House member, would be invited—not compelled—to attend the hearing.
The panel will question incumbent DBM officials and those who served during the Arroyo administration in the planned inquiry prompted by a resolution seeking to determine how 30 billion pesos in projects under the 2010 GAA for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was spent.
The 30 billion pesos was part of a total of P69.7 billion in congressional insertions to the 2010 GAA. The insertions are normally made after the executive branch submits to Congress its proposed expenditure program for the year and during the period of amendments when lawmakers introduce changes, propose increases or realignments of funding.
These insertions in the past constituted a part of the allocation of lawmakers under their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional following allegations that the allotments went into ghost projects and kickbacks.
In the 2010 budget, Arroyo imposed a conditional veto on these insertions, saying the release of funds would be subject to Congress’ identifying new revenue sources.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson has explained that the 69 billion pesos wa referred to as congressional initiative because the amount was not included in the expenditure program submitted by line departments and it was only during the deliberations in Congress that the amount was added.
There were apparently no new revenue measures to support the 10.2 billion pesos worth of DPWH initiatives and yet the amount was disbursed to implement 1,074 projects, which included buildings, road works, dredging and the like.
Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla has noted that even if lawmakers would kneel before the Presidential Palace to ask for funds, these would not be released unless the DBM would say so.
He also said he had no problem if funds for projects were released to the congressional districts, but these would have to be properly implemented.
“In the newspapers, it’s automatic that if there are releases to districts, it’s the fault of the congressmen. My point is, we’re happy there are releases, but we’d be unhappy if these releases are not properly implemented,” he said.
Padilla said the DBM should explain the funding source for the 10 billion pesos released in 2010. “We are at the mercy of DBM … Let us ask DBM where these came from,” he said.