By Charmaine A. Tadalan, May 6, 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Business World

SENATORS said they do not expect to pass the proposed Budget Reform Act, which will modernize the government’s budgeting process, in the remaining time left to the 17th Congress.

The measure will provide the legal framework for shifting to a cash-based budgeting system from the multi-year obligation-based budgeting system, which permits allocations to remain valid for up to two years.

A cash-based system requires implementing agencies to fully deliver within a year the goods and services funded by budget allocations. The system will grant a three-month Extended Payment Period, provided the goods and services have been delivered, verified and inspected within the fiscal year.

The Department of Budget and Management’s shift to a cash-based use-it-or-lose-it system provoked resistance from Congress that in part delayed the passage of the 2019 Budget.

Asked on the chances of the measure before the 17th Congress adjourns, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a phone message Sunday, “We can try but if ever, it can be passed in the next Congress.”

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian likewise doubts that the bill will be passed by the chamber by June.

“It will be tough. The support is there, but it will be tough because complicated ‘yang bill na ‘yan and I’m sure a lot of the senators will ask about the details,” Mr. Gatchalian told BusinessWorld in a chance interview on the sidelines of a media forum in Malate, Manila, April 24.

Baka next na (Maybe in the next Congress),” he said.

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 7302 on March 20, 2018 and transmitted to the Senate. Its counterpart measure, Senate Bill No. 1761 is still awaiting second reading.

The 17th Congress is currently on a Feb. 9-May 19 break for the campaign period leading to the May 13 midterm polls. It will resume from May 20 to June 7, giving it three weeks to complete remaining legislative matters.

All unfinished legislative measures by then will have to be refiled in the 18th Congress, which will open on July 22.

Mr. Gatchalian, a member of the Senate committee on finance and among the senators carrying over to the next Congress, said “I’ll still support it,” in the event the measure fails to be enacted.

“I think that will strengthen accountability and force implementing agency to spend what is allocated to them within one year. Ang nangyayari kasi ngayon binibigyan ka ng pera, wala ka naman timeframe para gastusin ‘yun kaya ‘di nagagastos (what happens is that you get the funds but don’t have a demanding timeline to use them which does not encourage spending). One of the reforms of the budget reform act is to spend it as quickly as possible,” he said.

Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, co-author of the bill, said he is hopeful it can be approved by June 7, but noted he is likely to refile the bill in the 18th Congress.

“We are still hopeful that the Budget Reform Act will be approved by the Senate this 17thCongress. This bill seeks to modernize the Public Financial Management System by addressing key gaps and aligning it with international standards and best practices. As a co-author of the measure, we believe in its objectives,” Senator Villanueva said in a phone message, Saturday.

“If it does not pass when the 17th Congress ends in June, we are keen on refiling this measure in the 18th Congress.”

The proposed Budget Reform Act is among the priority bills identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council at the beginning of the 17th Congress. — Charmaine A. Tadalan