MANILA — The 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) amounting to Php2.606 trillion has kicked into effect, with 78 percent or Php2.037 trillion of the national budget comprehensively released at the start of the year to address procurement and implementation delays and fast-track the release of funds for public goods and services.
As per National Budget Circular #556 on the Release of Funds for FY 2015, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the share of the comprehensive release of budgetary items under the GAA-as-Release-Document (GAARD) regime is up by 16 percent, as compared to 62 percent in 2014 (or Php1.408 trillion out of a total of Php2.265 trillion).
DBM Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said, “In keeping with the GAA-as-Release-Document regime we started last year, the release of a major component of the 2015 budget at the start of the year will ensure greater efficiency in public spending. With the GAA standing as the official budget release document, we’re able to address previous issues in transparency, delays in project implementation, and accountability in the expenditure process.”
The GAARD regime enables government agencies to obligate funds (i.e. allowing them to enter into contracts and kick-start the procurement process) on the very first working day of the fiscal year. This is because the disaggregated budget items in the GAA — specifically under the GAARD regime — are already considered released to their respective agencies.
The remaining 22 percent of the national budget — amounting to Php568.7 billion — will be considered For Later Release (FLR) and will be done via SARO (Special Allotment Release Order), subject to compliance with required documents and clearances.
The increase in the initial fund release is due to the adoption of the “no lump sum policy” in the GAA and the comprehensive release of budgets in most departments, including the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) provision for Farm-to-Market Roads and their National Programs for rice, corn, and livestock.
Abad said, “The goal of the budget’s early release is to give agencies a head start in the procurement process for their projects. But we also plan to aggressively clear spending bottlenecks by working closely with agencies and making sure they make the most of the funds released to them.”
The guidelines noted that notwithstanding the two-year extension of validity of the 2015 National Budget — especially with regard to appropriations for the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and Capital Outlays (CO) — agencies need to execute priority programs and projects within one year. This is so that agencies can deliver public goods and service at the soonest possible time as they had earlier committed to the President, Congress, and the Filipino people.