Recto bares P588-billion ‘unprogrammed funds’ in 2023 budget

4:37 pm on 28 August 2022, Sunday

House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto claimed that the proposed 2023 national budget is bloated by “unprogrammed funds,” as he called on to itemize the said allocation.

He said the proposed expenditure plan is P5.856 trillion, or P588 billion, bigger than the oft-quoted P5.268 trillion.

“The spending amount being asked by the Palace is actually half-a-trillion pesos more, Recto said.

Thee P588 billion represents the Unprogrammed Appropriations portion of the 2023 national budget. “It is more than double the current year’s P251.7 billion unprogrammed fund.”

He said the fund lacks details, describing it as “588 billion shades of grey,” which the government must itemize and render “in black and white.”

Topping the list of “unclear and undefined” purposes in the 2023 Unprogrammed Appropriations is the “Support to Foreign Assisted Projects” with a proposed P380.6 billion.

“Equally nebulous” is the P149.7 billion for “Support for Infrastructure Projects and Social Programs,” Recto said.

“Ang laki ng funding footprint, pero puro one-liner lang ang appropriations language. It is a blank check request,” he said. 
He added that the Unprogrammed Fund is one of the biggest “lump sums” in the National Expenditure Plan or NEP, the draft three-volume national budget Malacanang had sent to Congress.

“While it is part of the NEP, the unprogrammed fund is not included in the total amount. The result is, every popular budget literature nowadays quotes a smaller budget level,” Recto said.

He explained that while the Unprogrammed Appropriations can only be released if several “funding triggers” are met, the authority to spend it comes with the passage of the national budget.

“Thus P5.856 trillion is the ceiling of the proposed 2023 budget,” Recto said. “Once the latter becomes law, it confers standby authority to the executive to spend it, provided conditions are met.”

Like in previous general appropriations acts, the proposed budget for 2023 states that the unprogrammed fund can only be spent if revenue targets are exceeded or once loans have been perfected.

“But the problem is, there seems to be lax compliance on this. In 2020, for example, when revenue collections were down because of the pandemic, every centavo of the P122 billion in unprogrammed appropriations was released,” Recto said.

“Ganun din siguro sa taong ito. Nagalaw din ang P251.6 billion na unprogrammed,” said Recto, adding that the DBM should begin posting details of releases from the said fund on its website.

Recto said there are, however, a few “good and beneficial” recipients in the 10-item Unprogrammed Appropriations, which he supports. 

These include the P18.9 billion in public health emergency benefits for frontliners as well as the P5 billion in AFP modernization, but he noted that in the interest of transparency, these must be itemized.


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