Soliman, Abad in House line of fire on CCT probe

Published by rudy Date posted on May 20, 2011
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Budget Secretary Butch Abad may likely find themselves in hot water after House members bared their intention to hold an inquiry into the P2-billion additional budget allotted for the controversial conditional cash transfer (CCT) program bloating its appropriation this year to P23 billion.
In a phone interview, House Minority Leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said he would seek clarification from the House appropriations committee on how much was the amount exactly approved for the CCT.
“I would have to ask the appropriations committee on how much was the amount exactly approved for the CCT and how much has been spent so far and how is it being spent,” Lagman said. “We have to know these things as well as the basis for increasing the CCT budget by P2 billion.”
During the budget delibe-rations, Congress approved P21 billion for the CCT despite protestations from a large number of lawmakers.
Lagman reiterated that no augmentation could be done on the budget of any agency once the General Appropriations Act (GAA) had been approved, signed and enacted into law.
The other day, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda confirmed Soliman’s statement before Congress the CCT budget was increased from P21 billion to P23 billion.
This despite the fact the number of beneficiaries
remained pegged at 2.33 million families, of which only 1.9 million families had been identified and 155,000 families delisted as they were found out to be coming from well-off families.
Lacierda went on to say Soliman and Abad are set to sit down and talk to determine where they would source the additional budget.
Bayan Muna Teddy Casiño agreed with Lagman saying his group would also seek clarifications from the House Appropriations Committee saying an additional budget for the CCT that huge would require Congressional approval.
“I am quite shocked and seriously concerned that Butch Abad is scouring for more funds to plunk into Dinky Soliman’s multi-billion dole out program,” said Casiño adding that “raising the budget from P21 billion to P23 billion without adding the number of CCT beneficiaries certainly looks anomalous.”
“So, what’s the (additional) P2 billion for?”
Casiño insisted that before additional budget is poured in the CCT, a thorough evaluation of the program should be conducted first.
“This is too big for a realignment and may require supplemental budget requiring Congress’ approval,” Casiño stressed.
“I am quite shocked and seriously concerned that Butch Abad is scouring for more funds to plunk into Dinky Soliman’s multi-billion dole out program. First, raising the budget from P21B to P23B without adding the number of CCT beneficiaries certainly looks anomalous,” Casino said yesterday.
Casino said that the implementation of the program should be evaluated first before pouring in more government funds into it. He said that of the 2.3 million target beneficiaries in the program, only 1.9 million are registered and that the actual number of those who have received the funds are between 1.4 million to 1.5 million.
The program was started during the time of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo and is being continued by the Aquino administration.
Lagman added that households which do not comply with the conditions set for the program should be removed from the list of beneficiaries.
“There should be a strict monitoring [if the beneficiaries are complying with the conditions] because the program is conditional cash transfer. Many may have wittingly or unwittingly failed to comply with the health and education requirements,” Lagman said.
Households under the program are required to visit the health centers and that children in the household should regularly go to school.
An administration ally in the House, meanwhile, filed a bill requiring the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to submit a report on the total allotment and cash releases to all departments or agencies of the government to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, 10 days after the end of every month.
House Bill 4623 entitled “An Act Mandating Transparency in Fund Releases, and for Other Purposes,” authored by House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, also requires the DBM to post the same reports on their official website not later than one week after they complied with their reportorial duty to Congress.
It also directs the respective committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives to upload the monthly reports once they receive the documents from said department.
“Filipinos have evolved to become information-seeking citizens who want assurance that their money is well-accounted for and responsibly-administered,” said Tanada.
Being the principle proponent of the Freedom of Information bill, the House Deputy Speaker believes that such practice will ensure transparency and accountability in the government’s management of public funds.
“It is crucial to make the entire budget process available to external monitoring and scrutiny because the public deserves to know where and how their money is being spent by the government they have elected,” he said.
Tanada also filed House Bill 4627 or the “Unprogrammed Funds Prohibition Act,” which prohibits legislators from using standby appropriations included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) that are not supported by specific sources of financing at the time the GAA was approved.
“If the national government is to follow the logic of a sound management system, strict adherence to fiscal policies should be in place. Although there are notable merits to unprogrammed funds, they are more often than not susceptible to misuse and/or abuse,” he noted.
The House leader said that there has been a number of cases where standby appropriations have been misused, “some of these cases even involve mishandling on the part of previous figures in the Executive Department.”
“There is an absence of concrete provisions in the administration of such funds. More often than not, unprogrammed funds involve huge amounts of money,” he said.
“Continued misuse of these funds will result in instability in the budget system and ultimately lead to high budget deficits as the case of the 2007 budget deficit,” he added.
Tanada asserts that the people’s money should no longer be appropriated under unprogrammed funds to avoid such outcomes and lessen avenues for corruption in the government. –Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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