Andaya won’t let Diokno off the hook

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno is not yet off the hook, as the House Committee on Appropriations will continue looking into the anomalies in flood control projects and  budget insertions.

This is according to committee chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who earlier resigned ads Majority Leader to focus on the budget deliberations.

Andaya said the House of Representatives has no intention of stopping the investigation into questionable allocations and anomalous practices by the Department of Budget and Management under Diokno.    

“The investigation has been transferred from the Rules Committee to the Appropriations Committee, which I now chair,” Andaya said.

“I intend to schedule a follow-up hearing next week, following admission by resource persons on Monday’s hearing that all the chairmen and members of the DBM-Procurement Service’s Bids and Awards Committees (BACs) are not permanent but contractual and Job Order employees,” he added.

During the last hearing, Andaya bared a list of projects whose procurement and bidding are being handled by the DBM.

For 2018 alone, the DBM-Procurement Service handled the bidding of P198 billion worth of contracts for big-ticket infrastructure projects and consultancy fees.

The bulk of the contracts, worth P168 billion, was allocated by DBM to the Department of Transportation.

The biggest project bid out by DBM for DoTR was worth P51 billion – the North-South Commuter Project (Malolos Bulacan to Tutuban Manila).

Transparency’s sake

If the House contingent could have its way, the budget bicameral meeting would be live streamed or televised.

Chairman of the Appropriations Committee Rep. Rolando Andaya said for the sake of transparency and for the public to be informed where the budget of 2019 will be used, the discussions should be telecast live.

On Monday, the contingents from the Senate and House of Representatives will meet to thresh out differences in the proposed 2019 national budget amounting to P3.767 trillion.

“I will push for full transparency in the bicam deliberations. If need be, I will propose televised proceedings of the bicameral conference,” Andaya said.

“Let those who propose funds for the projects and programs come out in the open to defend their positions. Kung may itutulak kang proyekto o programa, tindigan mo at ipaglaban mo,” he added.

A member of the House contingent, COOP NATCCO Rep. Anthony Bravo said the issue of televising the proceedings has been discussed among Senators. He said no one objected, however no one agreed either.

In his statement, Andaya said “under discussion pa kung live stream. Hindi pa alam kung papayag ang Senado.”

Andaya had disclosed budget insertions in the 2019 national budget during the House hearings, allegedly done by the Department of Budget and Management headed by Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

Andaya said he wanted to scrutinize the budget because he didn’t want Congress to be a rubber stamp.

“We are now confronted with two choices: Rubber-stamping the passage of a greatly-flawed budget on time, or using more time to craft a better one purged of its in-born defects.

“If we choose the path of surrender and subservience, then such legislative haste  would have surely led to budgetary waste.

“We cannot pass a budget marinated in flood control funds, or drowning in DBM-inserted infrastructure projects the DPWH remains clueless about,” he said.

“We cannot be casual or cavalier about the most important bill the Constitution assigns us to pass annually.

“In  fact,  in our mandate to represent our people, the duty to  appropriate funds for and in their behalf ranks among the highest. This is so because, to quote a wit, “worse than taxation  without representation is taxation without appropriation’,” he added.