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Dominguez open to abolition of PS-DBM, PITC

Dominguez open to abolition of PS-DBM, PITC

Dominguez open to abolition of PS-DBM, PITC

MANILA, Philippines — Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said yesterday he was open to proposals to abolish the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), two agencies flagged for dismal disbursement records made worse in a pandemic.

Dominguez made the remarks in response to questions from Sen. Imee Marcos during deliberations of the Senate committee on finance on the proposed budget of the Department of Finance (DOF) for 2022.

“What is the opinion of the DOF on the abolition of both PS-DBM as well as the PITC given the push for rightsizing the government?” Marcos asked the finance chief.

Dominguez said he has yet to read up on the abolition measure against the DBM-PS and the PITC, but agreed state agencies should be reviewed every now and then to assess their necessity in the government’s functions.

“I believe it’s worth looking at. I believe all agencies in government should be regularly reviewed for possible abolition in the same way that we do with the GCG (Governance Commission for GOCCs),” Dominguez said.

For Dominguez, “it’s a good idea to review all government agencies” in the face of controversies “not only on their finances, but also on their purposes.”

The PS-DBM and PITC earned the ire of lawmakers over audit findings involving the transfer of funds into their coffers.

Marcos last week filed Senate Bills 2388 and 2389 seeking the abolition of both the PS-DBM and the PITC, respectively.

Marcos said the PS-DBM deserves to be junked for its involvement in the transfer of P42 billion from the Department of Health (DOH), for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) that appears to favor specific suppliers.

Similarly, Marcos said the PITC should be abolished, given the issues surrounding its function as a state trader. In the 2020 report made by the Commission on Audit, the PITC was found sitting on P11.02 billion in unutilized funds from transfers made by various offices since 2014.

During the hearing, Dominguez presented the DOF’s proposed budget of P23.18 billion, which is an increase of nearly a third from the P16.01 billion it received this year.

Bulk of the amount will go to the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (P10.85 billion) and Customs (P4.34 billion), as the government moves to digitize its tax collections in line with its policy to reduce physical transactions.

Major realignments

The Senate is likely to make major realignments and other changes to the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 to make it more responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic as cases continue to surge, Sen. Sonny Angara warned yesterday.

Angara, who chairs the Senate finance committee that has started deliberations on the spending program, said there is an urgent need for more flexibility in the processes involved in the annual submission of the national budget to keep up with the fast-changing situation due to the pandemic.

“With the emergence of Delta and the other COVID variants, the requirements of our frontline agencies are constantly moving. The situation is changing rapidly and so must our processes pertaining to the submission of the national budget,” the senator said.

He said many of the requirements of the various government agencies and offices are not contained in the copy of the national budget submitted to Congress, particularly those related to pandemic response.

During the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) briefing for the Senate on the proposed budget, the DBM admitted there were no provisions for the vaccination of minors, the provision of special risk allowance (SRA) for health workers and other items related to the government’s response to the COVID-19 variants, including the highly infectious Delta variant.

The Constitution requires the President to submit to Congress the proposed national budget within 30 days from the opening of its regular session or by the third week of August every year.

On the budget for the vaccination program, the DBM said the spending program only contains funding for the purchase of booster shots for fully vaccinated individuals in the amount of P45 billion under the unprogrammed fund and not for the inoculation of children aged 12 to 17.

It was only in June when the Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to allow its use on 12- to 15-year-olds. – Romina Cabrera

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