House eyes probe as Palace confirms hike in CCT budget

Published by rudy Date posted on May 19, 2011
A ranking member of the House opposition said the minority in the chamber may seek an inves-tigation into the alleged additional P2 billion infused into the contro-versial conditional cash transfer (CCT) program being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
At a press briefing, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman expressed surprise when informed that Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, during her presentation before the House appropriations committee last Tuesday, admitted the CCT budget was raised from the originally-approved P21.19 billion to P23.39 billion. This despite the fact she did not raise the number of CCT beneficiaries pegged at 2.3 million families.
“Let us check on that,” said Lagman. “The general rule is that after the General Appropriations Act (GAA) is enacted and signed,
no augmentation can be done.”
While budgetary augmentations could be done based on the agency’s savings, Lagman said any augmentation done even before the mid-year mark could be premature. “It’s too early to make any augmentation,” Lagman said.
Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad, however, was quoted by a Palace spokesman that the administration will find a way to fund the additional P2-billion needed for the CCT pogram and that the request made by Soliman for an increase in the budget of the program was already approved.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda issued this statement during a press briefing but clarified it later on apparently after realizing that such decision by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) may be questioned by the lawmakers.
In the 2011 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the 15th Congress only approved P21.19-billion budget proposed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the CCT program which therefore implies that the additional P2-billion granted by DBM may be considered against the law.
Lacierda initially confirmed the increase in the CCT budget including the unchanged number of beneficiaries for this year despite the additional P2-billion fund granted by the DBM. He, however, mentioned that the DSWD plans to boost its target beneficiaries to 3 million families by next year.
Last Tuesday, Soliman bared a P2.2 billion increase in the CCT budget with the program grant going up by P2,197,049,647 from the original allocation of P17,137,864,333.
Originally, the grant fund comprised 80.86 percent of the total CCT budget, with the rest of the budget going to the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
Soliman’s power point presentation also revealed the number of beneficiaries remained pegged at 2.3 million although the DSWD secretary admitted they have only identified 1.9 million beneficiaries so far.
Of the 1.9 million beneficiaries, they delisted no less than 155,000 beneficiaries after they found out there were double entries in their list and that some of the beneficiaries actually were from well-off families.
The House Minority Leader added that the delisting of the beneficiaries poses another concern as the CCT, being conditional in nature, contains some conditionalities.
“The beneficiaries are supposed to abide by certain conditions. Was there any of the 155,000 beneficiaries delisted for non-compliance of the conditions? Representatives from the DSWD said no,” said Lagman. “We have to get details.”
Lagman also proposed that the DSWD present a disaggregated report on the beneficiaries showing which region has benefitted most from the program.
“We also asked that we be provided a data on the performance with respect to urban areas. Studies in Latin-America shows the program is more effective in these areas, Lagman said.
“The budget for the CCT is P21-billion [as stated] in the GAA, the general appropriations. But Secretary Dinky Soliman and Secretary Butch Abad were able to discuss about the P23-billion [requested fund]—so it [CCT budget] increased,” were Lacierda’s words in an earlier interview.
“But, like I said, the target beneficiaries for 2011 is 2.3 million—that has not changed. The total registered beneficiaries right now is at 1.9 million and the actual recipients [of the CCT program] is at 1.4 million to 1.5 million [families]. For next year, we are going to add more beneficiaries to reach the 3 million [target of] registered beneficiaries,” he added.
“Butch Abad will find a way to plug that P2-B…I’m not sure from where shall Secretary Butch Abad source the fund [for the additional budget],” Lacierda said further but he apparently took a 180-degree turn from his statements when sought for clarification by the Tribune hours after his briefing.
Lacierda after asked about the possibility that some House members are planning to look into the CCT budget augmentation prompted the Palace spokesman to issue a text message to supposedly clarrify his statement.
“There is nothing definite. Sec. Soliman is working with the 21 billion plus budget as provided by the GAA,” the text message read.
Lacierda apparently acknowledged the possibility that they can be questioned for approving the P2-billion budget increase for the DSWD’s CCT program absent of any request for a supplemental budget granted by the 15th Congress.
He also mentioned that at this point, they are not entertaining the idea of filing a supplemental budget at the House of Representatives precisely because nothing is definite yet as regards to the CCT fund augmentation.
“No, we are not contemplating filing a supplemental budget,” Lacierda said, stressing that “DSWD is going to work within the given budget.” –Charlie V. Manalo and Aytch de la Cruz, Daily Tribune

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