Citing ₧11B flagged by COA, Drilon prods DOF: Check idle PITC fund

- By Butch Fernandez @butchfbm

SENATE Minority Leader Frank Drilon prodded the Department of Finance (DOF) to check out an “unexpended and unused P11.2billion fund sitting idly” in the Philippine Internatio­nal Trading Corporatio­n (PITC), suggesting the idle fund can be tapped for the Duterte administra­tion’s much-needed social ameliorati­on program (SAP).

Drilon suggested that even as the Duterte administra­tion scrambles to find available SAP funds for ayuda or cash grants, “it is highly possible that PITC is still sitting on a pile of unused and unspent cash that should have been returned long ago to the Bureau of the Treasury.

In a statement Wednesday, the Senate Minority Leader pressed the Department of Finance to “include the PITC in its ‘cash sweep’ and immediatel­y direct PITC to return any unused and unexpended funds in its possession so that it can be used to augment the budget for ayuda.”

Drilon conveyed his proposal as an alternativ­e after the Commission on Audit flagged the PITC earlier for its failure to return to the Bureau of the Treasury or its source agencies’ unused funds of P11.02 billion.

The Minority Leader noted that “these unreturned and unutilized funds, if it is still with the PITC, can augment the paltry ayuda that the government has promised to Metro Manila residents who will be badly affected by the lockdown.”

He added that “It can double the P1,000 to P4,000 ayuda that our kababayan will receive, suggesting that “we must use the funds to increase it to P8,000 per household.”

Drilon, who earlier exposed PITC’S scheme of keeping government funds in its bank accounts for long, cited the COA report listing the balances of the fund transfers totaling P11.022 billion from various Source Agencies, specifical­ly the National Government Agencies, for calendar years 2014 to 2020 for the procuremen­ts of various projects remained unutilized as of December 31, 2020.

He recalled that the COA flagged P11 billion worth of projects under the General Appropriat­ions Acts of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 that remain “for procuremen­t and bidding.”

Of the P11 billion, P3.5 billion are fund transfers from the Military Group (Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, etc); while P7.4 billion were transfers from Bureau of Customs, Department of Informatio­n and Communicat­ions Technology, Philippine National Police, and other government agencies.

Moreover, Drilon agreed with the COA findings that the funds must be returned to the concerned source agencies or the Bureau of the Treasury (BTR), adding: “We need Covid-19 funds. We need ayuda funds. If these funds are still with PITC as the government scrambles for money to fund the ayuda, that would be outrageous,” Drilon added.

The senator reminded that the PITC is mandated by law to return these funds to the Bureau of the Treasury.

He added that aside from COA Circular No. 94-013 and the pertinent GAA provisions that require the reversion of unexpended balances of appropriat­ion to the source agencies and the general fund, Drilon also cited Republic Act No. 11520 as authority for the return of the funds.

“Republic Act No. 11520 that extended the availabili­ty of the 2020 national budget until December 31, 2021 mandated PITC to immediatel­y return the balances from the funds transferre­d to it by different agencies,” says Drilon.

The law, he stressed, explicitly provides that “any balances of fund transfers in the books of the PITC shall revert to the unappropri­ated surplus of the general fund” upon its effectivit­y” in December 2020.

At the same time, the lawmaker introduced a provision in the law that would put a stop to the practice of agency procuremen­t outsourcin­g to PITC: “agency outsourcin­g requests or agreements by agencies, instrument­alities and/or government-owned and -controlled corporatio­ns with philippine internatio­nal trading corporatio­n shall not be allowed.”

He said, “this practice of parking funds with this GOCC must stop.”

The lawmaker laments that “the government is hard up due to the drop in revenues,” suggesting that “if they cannot disburse the funds, just return them to national coffers.”

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