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Philippines: Budget Department Working at Improving Transparency
Source: bworldonline.com
Source Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Country: Philippines
Created: Oct 22, 2010

MECHANISMS are in place to improve budget transparency under the current administration as a global survey found the country too restrictive of certain information on how public money is allocated and spent.

Gil P. Montalbo, director of the Budget department’s corporate planning and reforms service, said during the formal announcement yesterday of the results of the Open Budget Index 2010 that the agency has "soft-launched" a new feature on its Web site, labeled "fund releases," which discloses information on lump-sum releases to state offices. The facility is expected to be fully operational by end of this month.

So far, what have been uploaded on the site were releases for the Department of Public Works and Highways, the school building program of the Education department, and the internal revenue allocation of local government units last year.

"We are also working on having budget releases [this year] be automated so that the moment the money is released, [the information] will be available online," Mr. Montalbo said in a press conference yesterday.

He added that the second phase of the government’s e-procurement system that is now being readied should enable state offices to conduct online biddings by the first quarter of next year that can be viewed by the public. The current system, put up in 2006, enables posting of invitations to bid and notices of award.

The Open Budget Index 2010 -- the latest series of a survey that is conducted every other year -- found the Philippines leading its Southeast Asian peers in budget transparency.

But the same study noted that the country’s score of 55 in a 100-point scale shows still fails to meet global standards in budget disclosure.

The latest survey was conducted in the Philippines from June 2009-March 2010 by the US-based International Budget Partnership through its local partner, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

While the study gave the Philippines good marks in areas like publishing the enacted budget and providing progress reports within the budget year, it also noted the lack of a "nontechnical" version of the budget that laymen can readily understand and of timely, comprehensive audits.

In the same briefing, Leonor M. Briones, a former national treasurer and now a professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, said "timely" reports by the Commission on Audit (CoA) would pave the way for more accurate future appropriations. "The release of audit reports is late. Say for example, the 2009 report were just released last September. How can we use those audit reports for reference?," Ms. Briones said.

CoA officials declined to comment, saying they have yet to read the results of the survey. -- PPM


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