Proposed 2016 national budget prone to abuse in election year

There are large lump-sum amounts including suspiciously for local governments

Research group IBON said that the proposed 2016 national government budget is vulnerable to abuse in the critical 2016 election year. There are large lump-sum amounts including suspiciously for local governments, as well as an apparent attempt to give the administration greater flexibility to declare savings and transfer funds in the middle of the year.

The National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the Aquino administration to Congress has greatly increased the amount of special purpose funds (SPFs). The SPFs are notorious for having large lump-sum amounts that do not undergo congressional or public scrutiny. SPFs increased by a substantial Php61.7 billion to reach Php430.4 billion in the proposed 2016 budget, the group noted.

Among the SPF items is a conspicuous 69% increase (Php23.1 billion) in the allocation to local government units (LGUs) to Php56.5 billion. The new SPF for LGUs includes an almost 500% increase (Php15.3 billion) in a so-called local government support fund to Php18.4 billion, from being just Php3.1 billion in 2015. It is widely accepted that LGUs, up to the barangay level, are the base in ensuring electoral victories for national candidates especially in presidential races.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in particular also has budget items which appear inconsistent with its mandate to promote peace and order, ensure public safety, and strengthen local government capability. The proposed 2016 budget includes Php8.3 billion for DILG housing, water and other community projects that are presumably the purview of other government agencies.

This includes Php643 million for housing in the National Capital Region (NCR), Php1.8 billion for water supply projects nationwide, Php1.8 billion for community projects in armed conflict-affected areas, and Php4.1 billion for bottom-up budgeting (BUB) projects for water supply and other projects.

Increased SPFs for LGUs and redundant DILG allocations disprove the administration’s claim that pork barrel items no longer exist in the national budget, IBON said.

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