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Legarda Laments Continued Gov’t Underspending

September 19, 2017

As the Senate continues to discuss the proposed 2018 budget of various government departments, Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, lamented the continued underspending of several agencies.

 

“Underspending prevails in our government even as we see the many needs of our people that have yet to be addressed. Government agencies cite several reasons like failure of bidding, unreleased funds, low absorptive capacity, and some even blame the Procurement Act. We should address these issues immediately because uderspending simply means missed opportunities. It means denying our people the services they deserve,” said Legarda.

 

The Senator cited the case of the Department of Education (DepEd) which reverted to treasury 21 billion pesos last December 2016. The amount was supposed to fund teacher positions, maintenance and rehabilitation of basic education facilities, learning resources, and the  Government Assistance for Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE).

 

According to the DepEd during the budget hearing, they still have unobligated funds for the construction of classrooms worth 196 million pesos from their 2016 budget and 76 billion pesos from their 2017 budget, which would all expire by December 2017 if not obligated.

 

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) also reverted to treasury 11.5 billion pesos in December 2016 and as of June 30, 2017, it was only able to spend 18% of its 2017 budget which will expire by the end of the year.

 

“Several other agencies are also unable to fully utilize their budget, which is a disservice to the people whose hard-earned money is the source of the national budget,” Legarda said.

 

“We want to know why there has been underspending. Is it because of the process of procurement under the law, the bureaucracy or red tape? We need to find out the causes of underspending because we allocate funds, the funds are earmarked for expenditures that should generate income, jobs and economic activity, but if it is not spent then there is a problem and so there is slower growth,” she explained.

 

Legarda asked the departments of government to submit the reasons for reversion of funds to the National Treasury as well as the challenges that hinder them from fully utilizing their budget.

 

She also urged all agencies to do internal housekeeping and assess if they can utilize the funds they are requesting for 2018.

 

“Agencies should examine their budget proposals vis-à-vis their absorptive capacity and submit a more realistic budget. If they know that they do not have the capacity to spend the full amount, then they should submit a lower budget because we have other programs that need to be funded like the free college tuition program,” said Legarda.

 

“We would not want to engage ourselves in a blame game here; what we wish to encourage is that we all work together and provide the people what is due them. Government funds must be spent judiciously and expeditiously. I urge agencies of government to spend these resources well and address the challenges that lead to underspending,” Legarda concluded.