Briones: Big budget is not enough
The Department of Education (DepEd) may have the biggest slice of the proposed 2017 budget—with P567 billion—but the agency’s absorptive capacity still needs a lot of work.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones pointed out that a huge budget also poses problems when not properly managed, something the DepEd is looking to remedy, with the appointment of three fiscal managers and the setup of a program delivery unit.
“It’s not enough to demand a huge budget. It’s not enough to be promised a huge budget. A big budget. An ever-increasing budget. We have to show capacity also in absorbing what is given to us,” Briones said on Thursday’s Education Summit at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
Briones pointed out that as part of a civil society organization in 2006, she was among those who demanded for education to be given priority in the national budget after it was reduced to second place by the government, with national defense as its top priority.
“It was only in 2006 that education found its place in the national budget. That it was given priority. We have around 4 percent of the gross domestic product and we’re trying to move closer into the international standard of 6 percent of the GDP. But these things have to be continuously worked for. We also have to improve on our absorptive capacity,” she said.
According to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who was the keynote speaker at the summit, the P650 billion set aside for the three education agencies—the DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority—was approved by the House of Representatives in record time of seven weeks.
Challenge in execution
Diokno said it made up 20 percent of the P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 and is 30 percent higher than the 2016 allocation.
“The challenge is how to translate the budget into goods and services… The ultimate challenge is in the execution,” Diokno said.
“The reality is Filipinos expect the government to convert the budget into useful projects and programs… Spending delayed or wasted is service denied,” he said.
In line with budgetary reforms, Briones said she appointed two undersecretaries for finance and an assistant secretary for procurement.
One undersecretary for finance will be charged with disbursements, accountability and accounting systems while the other will handle budget utilization.
The assistant secretary will be tasked to speed up the procurement process which has been criticized to be very slow, “therefore, tempting,” she said.
The Education Summit is a two-day event, participated in by hundreds of delegates from different government agencies and education stakeholders nationwide.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.