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Not only AFP; DepEd, DOH, DND should also be checked for corruption

>> Friday, February 11, 2011

Philstar reported:

MANILA, Philippines – The practice of “conversion” or the fraudulent use of allocated government funds for other purposes is not confined to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine National Police (PNP), but is also routine in other larger agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd), a member of the House committee on appropriations disclosed yesterday.

The source said the main source of “converted funds” would be the personnel services (PS) budgets – mainly for the payment of salaries and allowances – where disbursements are difficult to monitor.

Other agencies allegedly engaged in the practice of conversion are the Department of Health (DOH) and even constitutional agencies with some degree of fiscal independence like the Commission on Audit (COA), the main watchdog of government funds.

“Each fiscal year, the DepEd, the DOH and the DND (Department of National Defense) would be given budgets for their personnel services, and these are huge sums, amounting to hundreds of billions of pesos, for their authorized number of personnel,” the source said.

“But these figures do not take into account those (personnel) who died, or were dismissed or who resigned, and this happens on a daily basis,” the source added.

Furthermore, almost always the authorized number of personnel to be hired by the agency are not filled by as much as 10 to 15 percent, thus the unused funds for the vacancies are prone to conversion.

The converted funds are considered as savings or covered with false disbursements and often used for bonuses at the end of the year, the source from the House said.

The DepEd, the bureaucracy’s biggest agency, has a PS allocation this year of P165.4 billion out of its P207 billion budget. The DOH has P7.7 billion for personal services. The Armed Forces has over P41 billion for PS while the PNP has an even higher amount.

The combined personnel of the DepEd, the DOH, the Armed Forces, and the PNP comprise about 75 percent of the total number of national government workers.

Underscoring the possible extent of the opportunities to engage in conversion using PS funds of national agencies, the Civil Service Commission can only give estimates of the size of the bureaucracy – 1.3 million as of the first half of last year.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Wednesday said he has effectively withheld 20 percent or about P8.3 billion of the PS budget of the AFP this year due to persistent reports as well as exposés on the malversation of funds through conversion.

Abad said the AFP leadership has been avoiding requests of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for a master list of its personnel.

He said the testimony of former military budget officer George Rabusa before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee confirmed previous DBM estimates that the actual number of soldiers in the Armed Forces was about 20 percent less than what the DND and the military is presenting when asking for PS budgets in Congress.

Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay earlier told reporters that the DepEd can easily “source funds internally for other purposes because I don’t believe that DepEd has 568,000 plus personnel” as stated in the budget.

“What it (DepEd) has been doing, year in and year out, was to automatically add the number of teachers it was authorized to hire in a year, without subtracting those who retired, or were separated from, or died in service during the same period,” Magsaysay said.

As this developed, lawmakers called for the immediate passage of various anti-corruption bills pending in Congress.

Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna and Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco, in separate statements, also called for tighter congressional oversight on the budgets of national agencies with huge discretionary funds.

“Departments should also encourage the use of computerized auditing and follow the E-Procurement Act in their transactions,” Haresco said.

“We need to work double time in crafting laws. There are very critical anti-corruption measures that need immediate attention,” Tugna said.

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