Cash-based budgeting system to push through in 2019 – Diokno

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Budget Secretary Ben Diokno (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the cash-based budgeting system will push through in 2019 despite Congress' rejection.

"I understand they (Congress) deleted the general provision in the annual appropriations act. But we can still proceed with it, without that. So we're still on," Diokno said in his regular press briefing Wednesday.

Diokno maintained that the 2019 budget's form and content is a prerogative of the executive branch.

"It's a function of the executive department under the law," he said.

The budget was ratified on February 8 by the bicameral conference committee. However, the committee members told  House Appropriations Committee chair Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando Andaya during their meeting that they have done away with cash-based budgeting.

A cash-based budgeting system only allows the disbursement of funds for projects and programs procured within the year. House members staunchly opposed the proposal, opting for the obligation-based budgeting which operates under a two-year timeframe.

The Budget chief said he will push for a law on the scheme.

"What we want to do is institutionalize it by having the annual cash-based appropriations in the law so that when we leave the scene, we are hoping the next President will not undo what we have done so far to quicken project implementation," he said.

Diokno refutes Andaya's new allegations

The Budget Secretary also denied Andaya's recent allegations that certain contractors are now asking for their money back after the Senate and the House deleted the ₱75 billion 'insertions' in the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

"The Department of Budget of Management is not involved in the implementation of programs and projects of individual agencies. DBM is not even concerned with contractors, nor is it involved in the bidding process and awarding of contracts," Diokno said.

Andaya, in a statement Monday, alleged that these unnamed officials who supposedly paid cash advances to contractors were "upset," citing that some of them were even receiving threats.

"What I heard, these favored contractors have two choices: renegotiate for new batch of infrastructure projects or compel the project proponents to return the cash advance in full," Andaya said in a statement Monday.

Diokno denied this, adding that allowing such policies is graft.

"I do not know what the practice was when Andaya was Budget Secretary but under our watch, advance payments of commissions are considered illegal. Such practices are not, and will not be condoned by the Duterte administration," he said.

The Budget Secretary dared Andaya to name the high-ranking officials allegedly giving advanced payments to contractors as these are illegal.

Ratifying the ₱3.7 trillion 2019 budget got delayed amid lawmakers' questions on 'insertions' and alleged pork barrel in the budget, most notably the ₱75 billion placed under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Public works chief Mark Villar earlier said he was not informed of the insertions beforehand and learned about it only after he saw the National Expenditures Program. The NEP is the government's detailed budget proposal submitted to Congress to guide lawmakers in legislating the General Appropriations Act.

Diokno, however, said he has yet to see the enrolled 2019 budget bill. Congress is expected to give an enrolled copy to the President by March 1.

"We'll go through the budget line-by-line -- president's budget, enrolled copy, line by line -- and that's a three volume document, about 5,000 pages," he explained.