DBM calls for swift passage of rightsizing, procurement reforms

DBM calls for swift passage of rightsizing, procurement reforms

By Keisha B. Ta-asan, Reporter

THE SWIFT PASSAGE of measures to rightsize the government and streamline procurement processes would help agencies and local government units (LGUs) improve their budget utilization, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

“When we asked the agencies on their catch-up plans for spending, the common issue they stated is the procurement system. The process is rigid, difficult, and tedious,” DBM Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said in mixed English and Filipino at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.

The DBM has also been pushing for amendments to the procurement law, including the adoption of a single electronic portal known as the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System for all procurement activities from planning to implementation.

The department has also sought the passage of the National Government Rightsizing Program, which seeks to streamline the bureaucracy to improve public services. The House of Representatives has approved its version of the bill, while Senate Majority Leader Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva filed a counterpart measure Senate Bill (SB) No. 2502 earlier this month.

“We hope (the bills) will be passed this quarter because the Senate will have another recess by Holy Week (April),” Ms. Pangandaman said.

She said the DBM is pushing for the rightsizing measure to ensure government workers are more responsive.

“We don’t want to remove personnel in the government,” she said.

Ms. Pangandaman said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing technical assistance to the DBM in studying the rightsizing program.

The DBM also wants Congress to approve a bill that will institutionalize the cash budgeting system. The Budget Modernization bill is among the priority legislative measures identified by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

Under the cash budgeting system, all authorized appropriations will be made available for obligation and disbursement only until the end of each fiscal year.

“We get a lot of requests from the LGUs, even in the National Government, to teach them and capacitate them on how to use their budget, prioritize their spending, and even contract management,” Ms. Pangandaman said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Pangandaman said amendments to the Mandanas-Garcia Ruling, which took effect in 2022 and grants LGUs a larger share of national taxes, are being reviewed.

“More or less the ruling is suspended because we’re reviewing Executive Order (EO)No. 138. But we’re already giving LGUs the revenue they need.”

“That’s why we need to boost their capacity building. When you give a lot of funds to a certain LGU, they should know where to spend these funds,” she said.   

She also noted that the DBM and other agencies still have consultations with LGUs in various cities and municipalities.

“We don’t expect LGUs to do big-ticket projects. That’s why we’re reviewing (EO No. 138) to identify what projects and programs the LGUs can do,” she said.

Ms. Pangandaman hopes the budget utilization rate of government agencies will be higher this year compared to a year ago.

Latest data from the DBM showed that the cash utilization of agencies stood at 93% as of end-November.

The DBM said it is also targeting to release all special allotment release orders (SAROs) for 2024 in the first quarter.

“We’ll give all the money to the implementing agency and then they will take care of the implementation. And then, they can just request if they need cash for payments,” she added.
A SARO is a specific authority issued to agencies to incur obligations not exceeding a given amount during a specified period for the purpose indicated.

In a statement on Wednesday, the DBM chief said she respects and upholds the fiscal autonomy granted by the Constitution to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“The Constitution grants fiscal autonomy to the Comelec and declares that its approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released,” Ms. Pangandaman said.

The DBM statement was released amid concerns on how the Comelec’s P14-billion budget in the 2024 General Appropriations Act, which includes the additional P12-billion budget allocated by the Bicameral Conference Committee, would be used to finance the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) or people’s initiative.

According to Ms. Pangandaman, the Comelec can use its allocated budget for several activities such as the preparation of national and local elections, overseas absentee voting, registrations, and among other initiatives. 

“An additional P12 billion was allocated by Congress to the Comelec. This is lodged under the regular operations line item of the agency… It is not intended specifically or solely to fund the proposed Charter change,” she said. 

“It is the Bicameral Committee — the Senate and the House — that added the amount (P12 billion) upon the request of Comelec. They have the discretion to use the said amount for a plebiscite if the government decides to pursue any change, or if the people’s initiative will be continued,” she added.

The DBM allocated a P2-billion budget for the Comelec in the 2024 National Expenditure Program. This is P17.4 billion lower than the commission’s initial proposal of P19.4 billion.

Upon the appeal made by Comelec to restore their budget during budget hearings, the Bicameral Conference Committee approved P14 billion, which translates to an increase of P12 billion from the initial P2-billion budget proposal of Comelec.