Robin seeks budget reform for local development projects

SEN. Robinhood “Robin” Padilla Photo from Senate of the Philippines FB Page

SEN. Robinhood “Robin” Padilla on Saturday said that local government units (LGUs) will be assured of enough funding for their priority development projects with a budget reform that provides for a Local Development Equalization Fund (LDEF), as contained in a bill he filed in the Senate.

Padilla filed Senate Bill (SB) 447 which provides that the LDEF be used strictly by LGUs for development projects, activities and programs (PAPs) listed in their Comprehensive Local Development Plans (CDPs).

“The cornerstone of this proposed measure is the creation of a Local Development Equitability Fund to support the mandated expenditure assignments imposed upon LGUs. Accordingly, this measure aims to provide an equitable distribution of wealth to LGUs to foster development with the end goal of bridging the gap between the revenue expenditure mandates of the LGC and the General Appropriations Act,” Padilla said in his bill.

Aside from promoting the principle of devolution, the bill is also in line with the agenda of budget reform pursued by former senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.

Padilla lamented that while the government is pursuing devolution to ensure the efficient delivery of public services, it cannot do so fully because “political and economic power” remains centered in “imperial Manila.”

Under Padilla's bill, the national government shall fund the LDEF to make sure provinces, cities, municipalities and barangay (villages) can implement their three-year Comprehensive Development Plan. The LDEF includes:

– P500 million to P1 billion per province per year

– P100 million to P200 million per city per year

– P50 million to P100 million per municipality per year

– P3 million to P5 million per barangay per year.

The amount of LDEF for each province, city or municipality shall be based on the following criteria:

– 50 percent of the prescribed amount for each first-class LGU

– 60 percent of the prescribed amount for each second-class LGU

– 70 percent of the prescribed amount for each third-class LGU

– 80 percent of the prescribed amount for each fourth-class LGU

– 90 percent of the prescribed amount for each fifth-class LGU

– 100 percent of the prescribed amount for each sixth-class LGU.

The funds are not to be used as cash gifts, bonuses, food allowance, medical assistance, uniforms, supplies, meetings, communication, water and light, and fuel; for salaries or overtime pay; traveling expenses; registration or participation fees in trainings and seminars; in repair and maintenance works in administrative offices; in acquiring furniture, equipment and appliances; and in the acquisition or maintenance of vehicles.

Neither may the LDEF be used for funding PAPs that may duplicate or overlap with those being implemented by the national government.

Meanwhile, there will be a performance-based evaluation of the use of the funds by an Oversight Evaluation Committee (OEC) to be headed by the undersecretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Its members will include officials and at least four members of accredited civil society groups and nongovernment organizations in the areas where the projects are to be implemented.

The LDEF will be decreased for LGUs that get an “unsatisfactory” performance rating. Two successive unsatisfactory ratings may result in the removal of the LDEF, although an LGU can reapply for it after one year.

On the other hand, the government shall provide P1 billion for the capacity building of LGUs to make sure they can properly use the LDEF.

A web-based monitoring system shall be set up by the OEC, with initial funding of P100 million.

A penalty of one to six years and a fine of P500,000 await officials who will withhold the release of the LDEF to the LGUs. Those who misuse the funds may be charged with technical malversation.

The bill also provides for a Congressional Oversight Committee to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the bill.

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