The Senate Committee on Finance approved on Wednesday the P2.7-billion spending package of the Office of the President (OP) for 2012 that will give offices attached to the OP more fiscal autonomy and instill discipline and transparency.
Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. told members of the Senate Committee that the OP budget covers only offices within the OP Proper, while fiscal administration has been devolved to agencies classified as Other Executive Offices (OEOs) in the OP.
OP Proper includes offices under the direct administrative supervision of the Office of the Executive Secretary, while OEOs refer to offices attached to the Office of the President whose operations and budget are managed independent of the Office of the Executive Secretary.
“We introduced changes in the budgeting strategies of the OP in pursuit of the following objectives: one, to instill accountability within the framework of fiscal autonomy and independence; and two, to promote transparency and fiscal discipline by defining the specific requirements of each budget unit,” Ochoa said.
The new arrangement, the Executive Secretary added, has also taken into consideration the transfer and abolition of some offices attached to the OP.
According to Ochoa, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and National Telecommunications Commission, among others, are now classified as OEOs. The Commission on Information Communications Technology, including the National Computer Center and the Telecommunications Office, has been placed under the wings of the Department of Science and Technology, in line with the continuing efforts to streamline and rationalize the offices under the OP.
The new fiscal management scheme, Ochoa said, allows for the decentralization of the operations of OEOs and gives them financial independence.
“We removed the layer of their budget having to go through OP Finance,” he pointed out.
Allocation for locally-funded projects (LFPs), meanwhile, is included as activities within the regular program of the OP under operations.
Ochoa explained to lawmakers the need to raise by 12 percent this year’s P1.8 billion budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) to “support intensified operations against organized and transnational crimes” and the administration’s campaign against graft committed by national government officials.
Among the LFPs under the OP are the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crimes.
Ochoa reported to the Senate that the proposed expenditure for personal services has been cut down by four percent to P487.5 million from FY 2011 due to the non-provision of funds for unfilled positions.
Senator Franklin Drilon, who chairs the Committee on Finance, lauded Ochoa for the reforms he has undertaken in the OP budget. He concurred that eliminating the sub-allotment system in the OP “is an improvement in the right direction” since it removes red tape and enables funds to be directly remitted to the operating agency concerned.
He also said that Ochoa’s introduction of reforms in the OP budget “inspires transparency and accountability on the part of the users of the fund.”
“It is not fair that the Office of Executive Secretary or the Office of the President is made responsible for accounting for the disbursement of these funds where they have no day-to-day control, the same being in the other agencies,” Drilon said.
“And putting for example OPAPP under OEOs in the budget indeed is a correct move because then we can actually be transparent and see how the funds are being disbursed,” Drilon added.
The same OP budget was approved by the House of Representatives last Friday. ###