Gov’t used 2020 savings for Covid-related infra projects

(File photo)

MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said the “savings” from the government’s discontinued programs were used to put up infrastructure projects related to the Covid-19 response

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares questioned how discontinued projects funded under the 2020 national budget, were used as “savings” to finance infrastructure projects that had nothing to do with the pandemic response.

Roque explained that savings can be used for other projects and programs as long as they were under the same department or agency.

“Sa ating batas, ang savings po ay pupuwede talagang magastos sa ibang mga kadahilanan, provided ito ay po sa kaparehong departamento. Ito po ay naging desisyon na ng Supreme Court doon sa tinatawag na Disbursement Acceleration Program noong nakalipas na administrasyon (In our law, savings can actually be spent for other reasons, provided it is in the same department. It was decided by the Supreme Court on the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program during the previous administration),” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), introduced during the Aquino administration, is a reform intervention to speed up public spending and to boost economic growth by supporting high-impact and priority programs and projects using savings and unprogrammed funds.

Roque said he does not have personal knowledge over supposed contingency funds that were not spent for infrastructure projects to support Covid-19 operations and measures.

“Wala po akong personal na nalalaman na mga hindi nagastos na pondo na napunta sa infrastructure na hindi po related sa Covid (I have no personal knowledge over unspent funds that went to infrastructure that’s not related to Covid),” he added.

He said he only knew of funds used to build makeshift hospitals to increase bed capacity for Covid-19 patients.

“Ang alam ko po marami tayong mga infrastructure gaya ng mga makeshift hospitals na tinatayo para nga po maparami iyong ating mga bed capacity pagdating po sa mga pasyente ng Covid. So, pupuwedeng maging infrastructure projects po iyan, pero related po sa Covid (What I know is that we have a lot of infrastructure like makeshift hospitals being put up to increase bed capacity for Covid patients. So they can be infrastructure projects, but still related to Covid),” he added.

Under the Bayanihan law, the government is given special powers to divert their approved budgets to augment funding for the country’s Covid-19 response.

Earlier, Colmenares questioned the realignment of contingent funds, which would have otherwise been used for “unforeseen” expenditures that could not be covered by the current spending law.

He said billions of funds were used for infrastructure projects that were not urgent, such as swimming pools, convention centers, and even a cruise ship port. (PNA)

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