Abad: Agency collaboration to promote faster 2015 spending

By on February 9, 2015

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. Photo courtesy of the World Economic Forum 2014 / Fotopedia
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. Photo courtesy of the World Economic Forum 2014 / Fotopedia

MANILA — To achieve the country’s 2015 GDP growth targets and address last year’s issues on spending, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is aiming to accelerate public spending while enhancing governance reform initiatives through proper coordination and planning.

In a speech during a JP Morgan conference, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said, “Budget management isn’t an exercise dependent entirely on the DBM. We look to the rest of the bureaucracy—the other branches of government, departments and agencies, and local governments, for example—to make the most of the funds allotted to them, and to ensure that these same funds are spent within budget rules and guidelines.”

He added, “It’s one thing to release the funds; it’s another thing altogether to ensure that these funds are spent as they should be.”

The Budget Chief said the reforms they had initiated in government in the past four years had revealed broad operational issues—ranging from weaknesses in project planning and procurement to insufficient capacity and compliance—within various departments and agencies. Spending also took a hit after government agencies were hesitant to implement projects due to the Supreme Court rulings on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP).

Abad said, “To address the matter of planning and project preparation, we’ve tasked departments and agencies to disaggregate their project listings from 2014 and 2015. We expect them to facilitate the documentary requirements for fund releases before the end of this month. These requirements include proper network plans, geo-tagged photos, and implementation guidelines.”

Meanwhile, the passage of the Php22.5-billion Supplemental Fund last year helped answer issues surrounding the high court rulings on the PDAF and the DAP. The DBM is also closely coordinating with local government units (LGUs) and agencies to ensure they follow the definitions of savings, budget augmentation, and realignments given in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Abad said, “Local governments will need to employ measures to ramp up their spending, all while remaining faithful to budget rules. Together with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the DBM will initiate financial management workshops for LGUs with government projects. The goal is to capacitate our local government units for effective project planning and efficient implementation.”

He added, “The plan is also to equip regional offices of various departments with the means to provide technical assistance. This specifically refers to the preparation of fund liquidation requirements and other activities designed to improve project planning.”

The DBM will likewise tap the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) to proactively assist departments and agencies in expanding their capacities for planning and procurement.

Abad said, “In particular, it might be best for departments to assign full-time support staff to their respective Bids and Awards Committees (BAC). At the moment, the secretariat for each BAC is manned by department staff who are already preoccupied with their regular tasks. A dedicated pool of people for each Bids and Awards committee will go a long way in expediting the procurement process for implementing agencies.”

The GPPB will also work with major procuring agencies to thresh out issues or recurring problems in the procurement process, so that these departments can come up with an improvement strategy.

Abad said: “These are among several courses of action that we intend to pursue beginning this year. Already, these measures are going to be amply supported by existing reforms now in place in the national budget process.”

He added, “Our mission in the DBM is to manage public spending in such a way that each peso spent by government will ultimately benefit every Filipino. The National Budget should always be an instrument of progress for the country. How we allocate resources now will certainly create an impact on our growing role as an investment destination in the region and, ultimately, in the fulfillment of our bid for inclusive growth.”