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Agencies told to use infra funds ahead of election spending ban

House appropriations panel chairperson Zaldy Co of the Ako-Bicol party-list called on government agencies on Wednesday to disburse their infrastructure funds ahead of the spending ban due to the barangay and youth council polls in October.

"I remind the departments and other agencies with infrastructure funds to obligate and spend those funds this year, and any infrastructure funds obligated last year but yet [to be] spent should also be spent in 2023," Co said in a statement.

"This is to make sure they avoid the election spending ban that comes with the barangay and SK elections in October this year and the rainy season that comes from July to September, while also following the government procurement law and regulations," he added.

The construction of public works and the release of funds for the same are prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code 45 days before a regular election and 30 days before a special election, with the exception of maintenance of existing or completed projects and emergency work necessitated by the occurrence of a public calamity, among others.

Co said that during the budget deliberations last year, House members already noted the billions worth of government projects and programs that have been delayed for various reasons.

"We should have much fewer delays and non-implementations this year," he said.

"By the time the 2024 budget hearings get underway in August, we expect accomplishment reports, not apologies and excuses," he added.

At a hearing on the bills reforming the Government Procurement Law earlier this month, Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) Technical Support Office Executive Director Rowena Candice Ruiz said that the majority of delays in bidding out government projects happen at the invitation to bid stage due to a lack of planning.

"Sixty-three percent of failure in procurement is in the invitation to bid stage. The [government] agency posts the invitation to bid, tapos binabawi [then they take it back]. It shows they are not ready," Ruiz said, referring to the 2020 data she provided.

"It is due to lack of planning on technical specifications, wrong costing, and wrong submission for a request. Planning tayo nagkakaproblema (The problem starts in the planning stage)," she added. —VBL, GMA Integrated News