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Makabayan bloc pushes for permanent budget oversight panel

The Makabayan bloc lawmakers on Monday sought for the creation of a permanent congressional oversight committee on the national budget to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT party-list, House Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas of Gabriela party-list and Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel made the proposal under House Bill 7157.

The Makabayan bloc noted that while the every General Appropriations Act (GAA) passed by Congress provides for the creation of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Public Expenditure, such provision is not enough.

The oversight panel is tasked “to primarily monitor compliance by agencies with the requirements or conditions in the utilization of public funds under this Act and pertinent laws."

“Congress needs to strengthen its oversight function in the budget process to enhance the effectiveness of the national budget towards the country's development goals and people's well-being. Instead of an Ad Hoc Committee created in every GAA, we need a strong, permanent, congressional oversight committee with defined powers,” the lawmakers said in their explanatory note.

“This bill proposes the creation of the permanent Congressional oversight committee on the national budget and defines the functions of the committee to help stamp out corruption and ensure effective delivery of services to the people. Congress has all the right to perform its oversight functions on laws it has passed, including the appropriation law it passes every year,” the lawmakers added.

The legislators also stressed that the issues on misuse of lawmakers’ discretionary fund or pork barrel and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in the past, both of which since declared illegal by the Supreme Court, exposed the problems and weaknesses in the actual budget process.

“PDAF, DAP and other similar discretionary funds did not only contravene the law but more importantly took away huge amounts of public funds intended for social services for the people and realigned to projects, programs, activities and areas upon the individual discretion of some government  officials,” the lawmakers said.

“While the Executive [branch] reports to Congress during the budget deliberations and before the budget approval, the information on how they implement the budget approved by Congress is difficult to come by once the budget is approved. In view of the forgoing, the immediate passage of this bill is earnestly sought,” they added.—LDF, GMA Integrated News