P501-B Special Purpose Fund for Aquino in 2015 budget
There are no longer pork barrel funds for lawmakers in the proposed 2015 national budget but President Aquino is apparently keeping his bigger largesse.
Malacañang has called on Congress to pass its proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015, that includes a P501-billion Special Purpose Fund (SPF), commonly known as lump sum appropriations under the control of the President.
Of the P501-billion SPF amount, P378-billion are programmed appropriations while the P123-billion are unprogrammed appropriations. These include pension and benefits fund, calamity fund and contingency fund.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. immediately defended that these huge budgetary allocations are intended for specific purposes in case of unforeseen events, adding that these funds will adhere to strict financial control and accountability measures.
“Based on established management practice, it is customary that a certain portion of the annual budget is set aside for contingency expenditures that are essentially variable and not amenable to precise determination at the time of budget preparation,” Coloma said.
“The national government, perhaps the largest corporation in the Philippines, follows such best practice in establishing the special purpose funds (SPF) totalling P501-billion,” he added.
Under SPF, the bulk of the P378-programmed appropriations will go to pension and gratuity funds at P140.6 billion, followed by miscellaneous personnel and benefit fund at P118 billion.
The SPF will also bankroll the budgetary support to government corporations (P62 billion), allocation to local government units (P33 billion), National Disaster Risk Reduction Management fund or calamity funds (P14 billion), International Commitments Fund (P7.4 billion), contingent funds (P2 billion), E-Government fund (P1 billion), and rehabilitation and reconstruction program fund (P1 billion).
Coloma explained that these programmed appropriations are allotments for which the availability of funds has already been determined and assured.
For the P123-billion unprogrammed appropriations in the SPF, the funds will go to the equity buy-out of the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (P53.9 billion), risk management program (P30 billion), support for infrastructure projects and social programs (P20 billion), Armed Forces modernization program (P10 billion), budgetary support to government corporations (P5 billion), support to foreign-assisted projects (P3 billion), and general fund adjustments (P1 billion).
Coloma said the unprogrammed items will be appropriated “only if there are additional sources of revenue or excess of revenues over projected revenues, new loans, new loan proceeds and other new sources of revenue.”
“Let me also point out, the budgets of the agencies under the executive department covering 81 percent of the budget—because, as I pointed out, only 19 percent is covered by the SPF—are covered by line item appropriations for programs, activities and projects, and further classified into three expense classes: personnel services for employee salaries and benefits, miscellaneous and other operating expenses, and capital expenditures,” Coloma said.
Coloma also assured that use of the SPF involves “close adherence to financial control and accountability measures.”
“This must be fully justified by the concerned head of department or agency and may involve vetting by the appropriate Cabinet cluster before being recommended for approval by the President. Actual disbursement is subject to regular auditing rules and regulations,” he added.
Last year, the President drew sharp rebuke from some concerned groups for his refusal to give up his so-called pork barrel in the budget despite the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Palace officials insisted that the use of the SPF as well as the President’s Social Fund (PSF) have been aboveboard and transparent, saying these funds are used for emergency situations.
Meantime, the budget proposal for 2015, which submitted by the executive branch to Congress last Wednesday afternoon, is 15.1 percent higher than this year’s fiscal outlay. Of the P2.606 trillion expenditure program, social services will get the biggest share of the pie at P967.9 billion, followed by economic services (P700.2 billion), general public services (P423.1 billion), defense (P115.5 billion), and debt burden (P399.4 billion).
Coloma said the President emphasized the 2015 budget “expands with the economy and supports further economic expansion; focuses on the imperatives of inclusive development; prioritizes the needs of the poor and vulnerable localities; increases the people’s voice in the use of their taxes; increases the government’s accountability for the results of public spending; supports the rapid and effective delivery of public services; and enhances the health of government’s finances.”
Coloma said the budget also focuses on delivering high impact projects in 44 provinces “with the following characteristics, (a) high poverty magnitude where more job opportunities will be created; (b) high poverty incidence that requires adequate social safety nets; and (c) those which are vulnerable to natural calamities.”
Th 2015 budget proposal also enhances government’s accountability for the results of public spending, according to Coloma. In meeting performance targets, the proposed budget for 2015 now includes indicators for outcomes.
“Hence, this budget does not only show how many households or families, for example, will benefit from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, but also discloses how many of these beneficiaries will actually be lifted from the level of survival to a level of subsistence, and eventually to a level of self-sufficiency,” Coloma said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)