July 4, 2014 · Posted in: Access to Information, Congress Watch, Freedom of Information, General, Governance, In the News, Investigative Reports, Media, Money Politics, Noynoy Watch, Paper Chase, The Economy
MORE THAN an act of contrition or an apology, a simple act of transparency and a firm gesture of accountability on how the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds were disbursed is what the Department of Budget and Management owes the Filipino people, at the very least.
In particular, the full details of which ‘high-impact” projects had been funded, which “slow-moving” projects had been discontinued, and which agencies gained or lost from the multi-billion-peso DAP.
Until DAP came along, transparency and accountability were words in vogue at the DBM under Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad. It must now walk the talk to show proof of what it claims to be “good faith” in how it disbursed DAP monies.
But today, July 4, two days after the Supreme Court voted unanimously to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions and acts committed under DAP, the DBM has managed only a hem-and-haw, evade-avoid play.
In a press statement issued at about 6 p.m. today, the Public Information Unit under the Office of the DBM Secretary said that “the reported total of P352.7 billion made at the disposal of the Executive branch through DAP in just two years is grossly inaccurate.”
The statement said that. “DBM records as of December 31, 2013 show that only a total of P136.75 billion—P65.59 billion under the 2011 National Budget (R.A. 10147) and P71.16 billion under the 2012 National Budget (R.A. 10155)—was made available to fund high-impact priority projects under the DAP for the mentioned years.”
It added that, “the total amount actually used from this available fund, which was P114.58 billion, is even much lower than the P352.7 billion reported.”
The DBM went on to point out many other details that the news media got wrong. For instance, it clarified:
* “The reported P133 billion worth of overall savings allotted for DAP for 2011 to 2012” was wrong. DBM records “reflect overall savings of only P119.11 billion comprised of P52.35 billion and P66.76 billion for the 2011 and 2012 Budgets, respectively.”
* “It must be noted that only a total of P19.69 billion were pooled through National Budget Circular No. 541, which only pertains to unobligated allotments withdrawn from different National Government Agencies.”
* “The reported P219.73 billion generated from unprogrammed funds for the two years was just a projection. Only P17.64 billion was actually released for DAP-funded projects according to DBM records.”
* “The inaccuracy in the reported figure for the unprogrammed funds may be a misinterpretation of what was presented in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) as projections versus what was available and what was actually used.”
* “For the record, windfall revenues for 2011 and 2012 only amounted to P18.3 billion and P13.92 billion, respectively, for a total of P32.22 billion. That was the total available fund, not P219.73 billion which was the projection in the 2011 and 2012 GAAs. Of the P32.22 billion, only P17.64 billion of unprogrammed funds were released and utilized for DAP-funded projects.”
So, other than claiming “good faith,” in disbursing DAP, the DBM is telling us that we must trust that it gets its figures right, to the last peso?
But if it truly does, it is fair to assume it also knows full well the details of which projects were funded, by how much, and why, under DAP.
How could people grant the DBM the benefit of doubt that it acted in “good faith” when to this day, it refuses to disclose the full and final list of projects funded with DAP monies?
The DBM has only itself to blame for the “grossly inaccurate” reports because to this day it remains grossly opaque about how it had disbursed DAP funds.
Nine months ago on Oct. 16, 2013, the PCIJ had filed a request with Abad for data and documents covering DAP-funded projects.
In particular, the PCIJ sought information about:
* The list of projects funded under the P85.5-billion DAP (as of 2011), including the location of the project, date of release of the fund, name of endorsing legislator or implementing unit, and the status of the project;
* The list of the projects, including the location of the project and implementing unit, identified in FY 2011 and FY 2010 as “slow-moving projects and programs for discontinuance” that became one of the sources of funds for DAP;
* The list of budget items for realignment in FY 2011 that became one of the sources of funds for the DAP; and
* The list of the “unexpected remittance of dividends from GOCCs, Government Financial Institutions, and sale of government assets.”
On the same day, Oct. 16, 2013, Charisse-Fuschia A. Paderna, head of Abad’s PIO, replied to PCIJ: “The technical team in charge of compiling and verifying the data (was) still finalizing the list to clear it of all possible inaccuracies.”
She assured that the DBM “(would) release the list to all media contacts once every detail has been validated and confirmed.”
PCIJ made subsequent follow-ups and on January 24, 2014, Paderna said that she “(was) still waiting for word from the offices that could best answer (our) questions.”
On Thursday, July 3, PCIJ reminded Paderna that the DBM had not acted on the request for data and documents covering DAP projects that PCIJ filed nine months ago.
Paderna’s more extended reply offered an oblique excuse. She wrote: “I’m very sorry for not addressing your previous queries on DAP; we’ve been quite busy this year — as you might imagine — and I may have forgotten that I hadn’t given you feedback on your request.”
“As much as we want to assist you now, we still can’t provide meaningful comment on all questions related to DAP. We received the SC ruling only yesterday, and we, of course, want to study the decision closely before reaching out to our media partners,” Paderna said.
“For a good while, we were unable to provide a list of the DAP projects, as the SC (was) still deliberating the matter and we did not wish to influence the outcome of the case, whether that decision worked in our favor or not.”
But because of the high court’s decision, Paderna said the DBM is “now similarly constrained.”
Why so? “Because the SC emphasized that the DAP was only partially unconstitutional, we need to approach the full text of the decision very carefully.”
How much time it will take the DBM to study the Supreme Court’s decision is unclear. According to Paderna, “This will take some time, since the DBM is currently preoccupied with the preparation of the 2015 budget; all units — especially Secretary Abad’s office — are working round the clock with agencies and stakeholders so we can meet the deadline for the submission of our proposed budget to Congress.”
The PCIJ told Paderna that all that had been requested are data and documents on the DAP-funded projects, and not the DBM’s opinion on the high court’s ruling.
The typically media-savvy Abad knew about the email and phone calls exchanged between PCIJ and Paderna’s office. Yet still, he has kept mum about DAP.
With its latest press statement blaming the media for filing “grossly inaccurate” reports, the DBM demonstrated to one and all that it has full information on the total disbursements and sources of funds for DAP, down to the last digit.
Indeed, how could it be correct about its sums if it does not know the parts that make up the sums?
Good faith? That’s a tough request to grant, for as long as the DBM remains totally opaque and evasive about the full details of DAP.
It is not gross inaccuracy to say that until the DAP fiasco, transparency, accountability, and good governance are de riguer principles that the DBM under Abad has espoused, in both theory and practice.
Good faith? Why can’t the DBM just stick to script? The least it owes the people is to claim and live by its mantra: Transparency, accountability, and good governance.
The news media has become “grossly inaccurate” because in large measure the DBM has refused to disclose which projects had been funded and discontinued, which fund sources had been realigned and looped in, and which legislators or agencies gained or lost from the humongous unconstitutional creature that is DAP. — PCIJ