House approves budget reform act

MANILA With President Rodrigo R. Duterte's certification of urgency, the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening approved on second and third reading the proposed "Budget Reform Act".

With 158 votes in the affirmative, eight negative and one abstention, the lower chamber approved House Bill 7302, which seeks to improve the budget process by enforcing greater accountability, strengthening the power of the purse of Congress, and increasing budget transparency and participation.

Under the rules, the House can only vote a measure on third reading after copies of the bill that passed second reading are given to its members at least three days prior to voting.

But with the President's certification, the House can now vote on third reading immediately after the second reading.

"Pursuant to the provisions of Article VI, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution, I hereby certify to the necessity of the immediate enactment of House Bill 7302 to address the immediate need for budget reforms and to remedy the gaps in public spending, which hamper the ability of the government to deliver direct, immediate, and substantial service to the people," President Duterte's March 19 letter to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez read.

The bill aims to ensure accountability and integrity in the use of public resources by ensuring transparency, fiscal responsibility, results-orientation, efficiency, and effectiveness.

It covers the management of revenue, expenditure, financing arrangements, and assets and liabilities of national government agencies, government-owned and -controlled corporations, and local government units.

Under the bill, Congress shall be mandated to monitor and review government performance against the requirements of appropriations and related laws, and hold government agencies accountable for their financial and non-financial performance.

The bill empowers the Philippine president to approve the Statement of Fiscal Policy; Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy for submission to Congress, as well as the budget priorities framework to identify the priority areas for government spending.

It mandates the Department of Budget and Management not to approve any request for release of allotments for items of appropriation covered in the negative list or modification in the allotment nor recommend the use of savings by the President until such time the non-compliant agency has submitted the reports required under the Act.

It allows the Commission on Audit (COA) to suspend and/or disallow any expenditure charged against augmentation using savings and any expenditure due to modification in the allotment that were made within the period succeeding the reporting period when the agency failed to comply with the reporting requirements under the Act.

Any public official or employee who shall cause the inclusion of fraudulent information in any accountability report shall be penalized with imprisonment of up to five years, or a fine not exceeding PHP1 million, or both, without prejudice to disallowances that may be made by the COA against expenditures related to such fraudulent information, provided that this fine is reviewed and adjusted periodically to be reasonable.

Any public official or employee who knowingly incurs any contractual commitment or authorizes any expenditure in violation of the provisions of the Act or takes part therein shall likewise be removed or dismissed from office, after due notice and hearing, even if no criminal charge is instituted against him. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency