MANILA — A lawmaker has criticized the itemized list of details of the Department of Public Works and Highways infrastructure projects in the 2023 National Expenditure Program for being incomplete.
In a statement, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said there are no details of regional distribution in the operations budget allocation for the agency's programs and projects.
"If we review the supposed detailed budget of the DPWH at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)... We can find that it is incomplete, like one of the subprograms under the Convergence Program, Construction/Improvement of Various Infrastructure in Support of National Security (Tatag ng Imprastraktura para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad Program – or TIKAS) only P4.129 billion out of P6.239 billion is itemized?" Castro said, adding that this should be itemized to avoid corruption.
For Castro, it is best that the majority of the funds of the DPWH be realigned for schools and hospitals.
The Department of Budget and Management, through Undersecretary Goddes Hope Libiran offered an explanation.
"DPWH submitted the details of the list of their projects on August 10, 2022, which is beyond the set deadline of Aug. 5, 2022 for the printing of budget documents, hence the submitted list of projects were not included in the printed NEP," Libiran said.
"The details of projects submitted by the DPWH were forwarded to the House of Representatives on August 19, 2022 as an addendum to the FY 2023 NEP. The same list of projects was uploaded in the DBM website." Libiran added.
The Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) on its website updated its analysis of the DPWH's budget, particularly the portion on regional allocation and the discussions on the "lumped operations budget under NCR Central Office" and possible "overlaps of infrastructure projects under Sustainable Infrastructure Projects Alleviating Gaps (SIPAG) and Basic Infrastructure Program (BIP)" to reflect the data presented by the DPWH under a separate document in the DBM website entitled "Details of the DPWH Programs and Projects".
CPBRD still maintained that the allocation for DPWH “nationwide” projects will increase dramatically by 16,916.8% to P628.2 billion in 2023 from just P3.7 billion in 2022.
It added that one feature of the DPWH OSEC 2023 NEP is the absence of the regional distribution of the operations budget.
"The allocation for DPWH programs and projects is placed under the NCR Central Office. A separate document submitted to the DBM, however, details the programs and projects of the DPWH by region, by district engineering office, by project type and specifications," the CPBRD said in its updated analysis.
"This detailed presentation on the budgetary allocation of the DPWH expenditure program for 2023 should be pursued as it is aligned with the principles of transparency and accountability espoused under line-item budgeting. This will greatly help in facilitating proper monitoring and evaluation of public works projects along with the geotagging system of the DPWH."
In a separate paper analyzing the regional allocations of the 2023 NEP as a whole, CPBRD noted the concentration of 42.9% of the budget in nationwide and central office funds.
"Among the major geographic clusters, NCR and Luzon (net of NCR) will get the highest allocation at 18.8% (P989.8 billion) and 18.1% (P954.5 billion) of the total budget, respectively. Mindanao regions will receive 11.9% (P628.7 billion) of the total while the Visayan regions will get a combined budget share of 8.3% (P437.6 billion)," it said.
"Meanwhile, the remaining 42.9% share or P2,257.4 billion are non-regionalized allocations, particularly lodged either under the Nationwide (NW) and Central Office (CO) funds. Note that the CO funds pertain to the allocation being managed by the Head Offices of the departments/agencies for their respective units."
The same is true for infrastructure outlay, the CPBRD noted, as it urged executive agencies to clearly differentiate allocations between nationwide, Central Office, and NCR as a region.
"Properly classifying the expenditure items is important to ensure that NCR shares are not bloated and that purely Central Office functions are also differentiated from expenditure items (under Nationwide) that subsequently will be downloaded to the regions," the CPBRD said.
"Moreover, there is a need to ensure that budget presentation with regional disaggregation should be made consistent across budget documents—i.e., the BESF and the NEP. Proper allocation allows for the visibility of regions in need of more funding and a better basis for legislative decision-making on how to potentially reallocate regional funds efficiently and equitably," it added.