House Adopts Line-Item Budgeting; Effectively Phases out Lump-Sum Pork Barrel System

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JdV: Consensus will restore transparency

Speaker Jose de Venecia yesterday announced that the House of Representatives has unanimously adopted the line-item budget system, effectively phasing out the lump-sum pork barrel system.

"We have reached a historic consensus," De Venecia said, after a three-hour caucus attended by over 180 members from both the majority coalition and the minority bloc.

"In asserting the power of the House over the budget, it is the decision of the majority coalition and the minority bloc to unite behind this drive for institutional reforms, so that the House, once and for all, can bring full transparency and complete responsibility to the allocation of government resources, under the blazing searchlight of public scrutiny," he said.

The caucus had only a few minor disagreements on the initiative which, De Venecia said, "will have far-reaching reform implications in the way government allocates resources."

De Venecia presided over the caucus with Deputy Speakers Emilio Espinosa Jr. and Raul del Mar, Majority Leader Prospero Nograles Jr. and appropriations committee chairman Rolando Andaya Jr.

De Venecia said line- item budgeting means the full identification of the district projects and the amount involved, erasing suspicions associated with the use of the lump-sum pork barrel allocations.

He said line-item budget will apply to congressional allocations as well as capital expenditures under the Executive Department. It will not, however, apply to intelligence funds.

De Venecia stressed that the adoption of the modified line-item budget system "will restore credibility, transparency, and responsibility in the way we allocate government resources, and ensure that district projects and public works requirements will continue to be provided under stringent audit rules and procedures."

The line-item allocations will concentrate on capital expenditures and will not be subject to realignments, as had been the practice for decades under the lump-sum system, to eliminate opportunities for corruption that eroded public trust in governance, he said.

Earlier last week, De Venecia said phasing out the lump-sum pork barrel system is an "institutional reform" that would address the question of transparency and responsibility that have hounded the porkbarrel system for years.

Angara & Pimentel criticize 04 budget

Sen. Edgardo Angara yesterday branded the 2004 re-enacted budget as "the biggest pork barrel of all."

Angara said this after Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. delivered a privilege speech pressing for the restoration of line- item budgeting.

Both agreed that some funds of the 2004 budget, allegedly a copy of the 2003 budget but was re-enacted after the House of Representatives decided not to pass the proposed 2004 budget, were used in the May 2004 national and local elections "since most of the savings were at the Presidents disposal."

Line budgeting, according to Pimentel, has everything to do with good governance and the restoration of the power of Congress as the holder of the purse "to determine what, when and how the monies of the people are to be spent."

"In brief, line item budgeting and balanced budgeting would eliminate not only hidden pork barrel items but would also prevent the placing of projects and programs in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) that are not properly funded. The so-called unfunded mandates would become a thing of the past."

Angara said the "two other greater evils" are the powers of the President to juggle savings and impound or withhold the release of funds to previously appropriated items such as the 40 percent share of local government units (LGUs) from taxes. …