Senate panel OKs COA, Ombudsman proposed 2020 budgets

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed 2020 budgets of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Office of the Ombudsman hurdled the Senate finance committee on Wednesday, September 18.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires presented its proposed P3.15-billion budget for 2020 to the Senate panel.

The Ombudsman's proposed budget is 32.99% or P1.55 billion lower than this year's allocation of P4.7 billion. In the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP), the Ombudsman ranked 4th among agencies with the biggest budget cuts.

Its anti-corruption enforcement program suffered the biggest slash in funds in the proposed budget by some P400.577 million. Under the NEP, the program will receive only P479.93 million, down from the 2019 allocation of P880.51 million.

The item for adjudication on administrative cases against erring public officials to enforce anti-corruption laws lost P240.87 million in the proposed budget. Last year's allocation for the item was at P368.01 million, while the 2020 proposed fund is at P127.213 million.

Funding for capital outlay was also removed for next year, down from P353 million in 2019.

In under 5 minutes, the proposed budget of the Office of the Ombudsman was approved, but the hearing resumed when senators asked for updates on the office's investigation into the Good Conduct Time Allowance law.

Before the hearing ended, Senator Imee Marcos raised concerns over the slashed funds. She said that the Ombudsman should "get the budget it needs."

"The decrease in the Ombudsman budget is alarming given their pivotal role in the anti-corruption campaign of the natinal government. I would like to put that in record that I am recommending to the Senate that your goals should be met," Marcos said.

COA BUDGET. Commission on Audit Chairman Michael Aguinaldo answers questions from the panel during the Senate hearing on COA's proposed 2020 budget on September 18, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

COA BUDGET. Commission on Audit Chairman Michael Aguinaldo answers questions from the panel during the Senate hearing on COA's proposed 2020 budget on September 18, 2019.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Meanwhile, COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo presented the commission's proposed fiscal plan of P12.91 billion, which is P355.74 million more than the 2019 budget of P12.56 billion.

Bulk or P5.66 billion of COA's proposed funds will go to the government auditing program.

COA's proposed budget was approved in the committee level too, shortly after the presentation of the expenditure program.

The proposed 2020 national budget stood at P4.1 trillion, which is 11.8% higher than the P3.662-trillion budget for 2019. It represents 19.4% of the country's projected gross domestic product in 2020.

At the House of Representatives, plenary debates on the general appropriations bill started on September 10. House lawmakers aim to pass the budget in the lower chamber before October to avoid a repeat of a reenacted budget. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

image