MANILA, Philippines — The P1.2-billion confidential funds previously allotted to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) were congressional “insertions,” an official told senators on Tuesday.
“…2019 and 2020 are both insertions,” DICT Undersecretary Heherson Asiddao said during the hearing of the Senate finance subcommittee.
Asiddao was referring to the P400-million confidential funds of DICT in 2019 and another P800 million also for the same purpose in 2020 for a total of P1.2 billion for two years.
Of the P1.2 billion, however, only P400 million was released to the DICT, according to Benjieleth Zuniga, acting assistant director of the Department of Budget and Management.
“For 2020 po the appropriation of P800 million under DICT was not released,” Zuniga said when Senator Grace Poe asked about the agency’s confidential funds.
“It formed parts po of the Covid-19 response po natin na hindi na po sya na-release,” she added.
For 2024, DICT is asking Congress for another P300 million budget to fight online and tex scams.
But Poe, who was presiding over the hearing, said they have to scrutinize first how the agency spent its confidential budget before considering its new funding request.
Job Aguirre, supervising auditor from the Commission on Audit, confirmed that the P800 million confidential funds in 2020 were not released to the DICT.
This, nevertheless, shows that Congress has been appropriating confidential funds to DICT, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III pointed out.
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda then inquired if these funds were part of the National Expenditure Program or congressional amendments.
It was at this point that Asiddao offered the information that the P1.2 billion allocations were “congressional insertions.”
“Be careful sa sagot kasi we’re treating this as factual. Be accurate pease,” Pimentel said.
Asiddao then told the committee that they would check their records first.
“Better to be safe,” Poe commented.
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