The national budget will jump to P3.767 trillion in 2018, or by P1 trillion, from its 2016 level of 2.682 trillion, and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto doubts if agencies have the capacity "to spend their allocations, which essentially are taxes collected from the people."
"The budget will balloon by P1 trillion within a period of two years. Can the agencies spend the money in full, for the right things and on time?" Recto told economic managers on their maiden Senate appearance to pitch the 2018 spending program. Citing official figures, Recto raised "the disturbing trend of over-appropriations and underspending."
He cited the budget for "Personal Services," of which, P746 billion was spent in 2016 out of a budget of P794 billion, "or an underspending or over-appropriation of P48 billlion."
Personal Services or PS is official budget-speak for payroll and other compensation expenditures for employees and pensioners.
Recto said the same is true in the case of Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses, or MOOE, whose disbursements reached P1.011 trillion out of the P1.127 trillion provided for in the 2016 budget, "or a slippage of P116 billion."
MOOE covers non-salary operating expenses like utilities, supplies, rent, and grants. "Pati sa utang, over ang request natin. Humingi ang nakaraang administrasyon ng P392 billion to service this, pero P304 lang ang nagasta. O sobra ng P90 billion. Kasi minsan, sinasadya natin na lakihan ang forex assumption in computing interest payments," Recto said.
But the worst manifestation of underspending is Capital Outlays, largely infrastructure, Recto said.
"In 2016, the executive asked for P1.175 trillion, but managed to obligate P823 billion, or a shortfall of P352 billion," Recto said.
"In all, unreleased appropriations reached P63.43 billion in 2016, on top of the unobligated allotments of P544.53 billion," he said.
"The utilization rate is low," Recto said. "We betray the people when we are slow, or if we fail, in returning the taxes they have paid, through the national budget. The results penalize a people who have the right to expect the things promised in the budget," Recto said.
"Ang laki ng hinihingi, hindi naman magasta. Madalas nagrereklamo na kulang pa, pero at the end of the day hindi naman nagagamit," he lamented.
Recto theorized that the bureaucracy might have reached "peak capacity" in implementing projects and programs.
This could be a result of "a technical deficit," which in the case of agencies with infrastructure assignments is "due to lack of engineers and technical people."
Source: Senate of the Philippines