HOW the new administration under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and the 19th Congress deals with alleged irregularities involving the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) will be an indicator of good governance and fiscal discipline, analysts said.
“Allegations of mismanagement of government funds in procurement and the actions to be taken by the government to address this issue would be a litmus test/signaling on the government’s determination in ensuring judicious and prudent use of its limited financial resources,” Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort told BusinessWorld through Viber.
This fiscal discipline, he said, would be “in terms of more disciplined spending through good governance/anti-corruption/anti-wastage/anti-leakage measures.”
The PS-DBM, primarily tasked to operate a centralized procurement system for common office supplies and equipment for government agencies, was put in the spotlight last year after state auditors flagged irregularities in the purchase of medical supplies in 2020 using emergency funds amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More recently, the Commission on Audit’s 2021 audit report again flagged P1.39 billion worth of personal protective equipment (PPEs) procured by PS-DBM for the Department of Health (DoH). A separate report questioned the agency’s purchase of P2.4 billion worth of slow and outdated laptops for the Department of Education.
Mr. Ricafort said the government needs to address such reported anomalies in public transactions alongside ramping up tax collections, rightsizing the bureaucracy, among other measures “to make fiscal management/debt management more sustainable.”
He said this is particularly crucial in the face of “the sharp increase of the country’s debt during the pandemic that needs to be paid at some point in the future.”
Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said both chambers of the previous Congress failed to rein in the PS-DBM problem by refusing to use their oversight functions.
“Clearly, there is a trend of anomalies and mismanagement of funds that can be traced to DBM,” she said via text message.
“Both Houses of Congress are at fault in not looking into this closely in the previous Congress. In the Senate, majority of senators failed to endorse the report of the Blue Ribbon Committee of Senator (Richard J.) Gordon re: Pharmally. These senators should be held accountable. In the House, the committee in charge simply closed the investigation in the DoH procurement anomalies because they were allies of President (Rodrigo R.) Duterte,” Ms. Atienza said.
In the current 19th Congress, Mr. Marcos enjoys majority support in both the House and the Senate. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo