More than the announcement of the grant of various of social protection packages to sectors hit hard by the health crisis, it is the verified acceptance of state assistance that matters most.
After all, the bottom line should be whether the people got the aid or not.
Indeed, it would be such a terrible, horrendous crime, a massive, systemic rip-off if the money went elsewhere else – like south to some people’s pockets.
And so we fully agree with and strongly support Senate President Pro Tempore in urging President Duterte to order government agencies to add the most important column in their monthly publication of funds spent, and that is for “goods and services delivered to the people.”
In a statement, Recto said:
“Spent” is a broad term, and is often used to disguise delays in the delivery of government programs and projects. An agency can glowingly report that an allotment has been obligated, when what it really means is that it is just in the procurement phase.
There is one litmus test in budget spending, and that is what are meant to be procured for the people have been received by them. This delivery receipt is the most important.
Pwede kasi i-report na nakabili na ng bigas, pero kung ito ay hindi pa naipamahagi sa taong bayan, o binubukbok lang sa warehouse, ano ang pakinabang ng mamamayan dito?
Para ding PPE o gamot ‘yan, kung iuulat na nabili na, pero ilang buwan nang nakatengga sa bodega habang maraming frontliners ang nangangailangan nito, hindi ba’t hungkag na spending yan?
For example: Department of Social Welfare and Development had reported months ago that it had downloaded the bulk of the money for the SAP, but this hides the fact that the actual payout to beneficiaries has been hounded by delays.
Artificial spending also happens when an agency transfers funds to another, thereby beating the spending clock, preventing it from being reverted to the Treasury and reporting the money as spent.
This pasa-load type of procurement is window dressing.
Ang ginagawa ng isang agency, tulad ng National Police Armed Forces, Department of Health, at Department of Transportation noon ay ililipat ang pondo sa Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service o sa Philippine International Trading Corp., a government corporation, at aatasang sila na ang mag-pa-bid.
But in reality, funds are not immediately spent, and are merely parked in another agency. This subverts the very essence of cash budgeting, which seeks to accelerate disbursement. This creates the illusion of money spent when what happened was the budgetary equivalent of passing the buck.
Spending must be faster than the virus and funds must not mutate into other uses.
Earlier, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III highlighted the importance of digitalization in government processes to increase the efficiency in the delivery of government aid, among others.
Dominguez said digitalization of transactions, distribution of aid through banks and electronic wallet, and close administration of the critical steps of the program are the reasons for the success of the small business wage subsidy program.
“It is hard to do illicit things because it’s computerized. There is no cash to be handled. Nobody can keep the cash so the intended beneficiaries, the employees of small companies, received subsidy,” he said.
The SBWS program extended P5,000 to P8,000 subsidy to employees of micro, small, and medium enterprises whose companies were greatly affected by the enhanced community quarantine since it restricted people’s movement and businesses’ operations.
This was implemented using the system of the Social Security System and funds were disbursed directly to the beneficiaries’ bank or PayMaya accounts.
Dominguez said they disbursed about P41 billion worth of subsidies for the program.
“We used SSS’ system but SSS itself did not pay. The money came from the national government,” he said.
Dominguez said they learned three lessons from the program and the first is setting a timeline and milestone to determine what could and should be achieved at a particular time.
He said the second lesson is to have regular meetings to update on the progress of the program.
For the SBWS, Dominguez said officials of the Department of Finance, SSS, Development Bank of the Philippines, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue met two to three times daily to ensure that the system for this program is working.
The last lesson that authorities learned from the SBWS implementation is tapping experts from the private sector to further improve the program.
“Government does not know everything so we brought in people from the private sector,” he said, citing that experts from Microsoft and Union Bank of the Philippines, among others, were tapped for this program.