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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Tracking problem

The Philippine Star

As in previous years, Congress passed the General Appropriations Act for 2016 before the current year ended. President Aquino signed the GAA into law the other day, correctly pointing out that the annual appropriation has always been passed on time under his watch.

In the previous administration, Congress was notorious for failing to pass the national budget on time. This meant the automatic reenactment of the old GAA, which opened numerous opportunities for fund juggling and misuse of public funds. It also wreaked havoc on the budget process, wasting the efforts of government agencies in preparing their proposed funding appropriations. Combined with the pork barrel and numerous discretionary funds, the GAA offered wide opportunities for corruption.

The Supreme Court has since struck down as unconstitutional the congressional pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund and its cousin that was developed under the Aquino administration – the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

But significant reforms have also been introduced in the budget process in the past years. Apart from the timely enactment of the GAA under President Aquino, government agencies are now required to upload online their budgets and expenditures for public scrutiny.

There’s one serious problem, however, which must be remedied by any administration that is sincere in its campaign for good governance and the judicious use of people’s money. Donor governments and organizations have noted that it is nearly impossible to accurately monitor the implementation of state-funded projects and programs in this country, including those that utilize official development assistance. Project codes that are needed for tracking implementation are changed from agency to agency. There is no unique ID for a project or program.

Certain members of the donor community have remarked that the situation gives credence to the observation of former senator Panfilo Lacson that much of the GAA is in fact one big pork barrel, with officials of implementing agencies enjoying wide discretion in fund utilization.

Addressing the problem does not require a constitutional amendment. President Aquino, with his avowed commitment to the straight path, has several months left to remedy this problem.

 

 

ACIRC

ADMINISTRATION

AGENCIES

AQUINO

DISBURSEMENT ACCELERATION PROGRAM

GAA

GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT

PANFILO LACSON

PRESIDENT AQUINO

PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FUND

SUPREME COURT

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