Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday reiterated his call for Congress to use its oversight powers in addressing the issue of unused funds intended for relief measures to assist small businesses under the Bayanihan 2 aid package.
This after Acting Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Tina Canda on Wednesday, March 23, said the department will leave it up to lawmakers to open an inquiry into unused Bayanihan 2 funds.
“Congress has to step up and look into this issue of unused funds, kasi hindi pwedeng paulit-ulit tayo na ganito (things can’t be this way all the time),” Cayetano said on March 25, 2022.
He pointed to House Resolution 1731 which he and his allies filed on April 28, 2021 urging the House of Representatives to exercise its oversight powers to probe the utilization of funds under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 spending bills.
The resolution said Congress oversight will help the national government craft future stimulus programs.
“Noon pa lang, sinasabi na natin na kailangan ng mahigpit na oversight for something as big and ambitious as Bayanihan 2, kasi ang daming moving parts niyan e,” Cayetano said.
(We’ve been saying that we need strong oversight for something as big and ambitious as Bayanihan 2, because it has so many moving parts.)
A report released by the Commission on Audit (COA) dated March 2, 2022 had flagged P4.99 billion in unused funds intended for the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES program of the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.), a state-run company under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
State auditors had found that SB Corp. used only P4.09 billion or 45.04 percent of the total budget of P9.08 billion allocated for loans to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises under the Bayanihan 2 spending bill, which expired on June 30, 2021.
Around P4.99 billion or 54.96 percent of the budget allocated went unused and was reverted to the government’s General Fund, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
According to Cayetano, instead of letting the money go unused, Congress could have stepped in to reprogram the funds for more readily-available aid programs for the people.
“May nakalatag na na proposal for 10K Ayuda. If they passed that bill, mas madaling na-disburse ang pera sa mga kababayan natin,” Cayetano said, referring to the 10K Ayuda Bill he filed in February 2021.
(There was already a proposal for 10K Ayuda, if they passed that bill then it would have been easier to disburse that money to the people.)
The bill proposed to provide cash grants of P10,000 to every Filipino household to help them recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Cayetano added that a direct cash aid program like 10K Ayuda, funded by savings from agencies and unutilized government money, can help Filipino households amid rising fuel and food costs.
To address this, Malacañang this week said it will implement a P500 monthly subsidy for the bottom 50 percent of households.
Under House Resolution 1731, Cayetano and his allies said an inquiry “will shed light into which programs were effective, forming the basis for which ones should be extended, or included in future appropriations measures, or replaced with alternatives which Congress would deem to be effective.”
The resolution states further that it is necessary to determine the utilization rate of implementing agencies “not only to see how they performed, but also to help streamline the process of budget legislation, identify and solve problems in the budget execution stage, and strengthen the government’s ability to deliver services.”
The resolution has been pending with the House Committee on Rules since May 2021.
“We need to review what went wrong para hindi na ‘to maulit the next time we attempt a large stimulus bill like Bayanihan 1 and 2,” Cayetano said.
(We need to review what went wrong so that this would not happen the next time we attempt a large stimulus bill like Bayanihan 1 and 2.)