The House Committee on Appropriations on Thursday identified three government agencies that may get budget cuts next year due to low absorptive capacity and sluggish implementation of projects and programs.
Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles of Davao City, the panel chairman, said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) can contribute at least P37.5 billion to fund Republic Act 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
“[The P37.5 billion] can act as a standby fund once the free college education program is fully implemented,” Nograles said.
Under 2018 national budget, the DICT has submitted a P6.87-billion budget request for 2018. The DOTr is asking P73.8 billion, while the DAR is seeking P10.3 billion.
During the budget deliberations of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the agency estimated that P34.1 billion is needed to fund the free tertiary education program. Students who will benefit from the law will be coming from 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 16 local universities and colleges (LUCs) accredited by CHED, and 122 technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) under Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
During the budget briefing of the DICT, Nograles said his panel found out the agency has P2.7 billion in unused appropriations in 2016 and P2.695 billion in untouched budget in 2017.
“These funds will expire in December 31, 2017, and I doubt very much if [the] DICT will be able to utilize these funds before the year ends. So instead of wasting these funds, I would rather use the money to support the higher-education law for free tuition and miscellaneous fees for students in SUCs, LUCs, TVIs,” Nograles said.
Also, he said an additional P5 billion can be sourced from the DAR and P30 billion from the DOTr. “Another department with low utilization rate is the Department of Agrarian Reform that failed to utilize P6 billion in 2015, and failed to obligate P5 billion in 2016,” he added.
Nograles said the DOTr, on the other hand, failed to use P33 billion in 2015, and in 2016 “they have, so far, failed to obligate P30 billion of their budget allocation”.
While allocations under the 2015 and 2016 General Appropriations Acts cannot be tapped for the 2018 national-expenditure program, the chairman of the appropriations committee said they can be programmed for spending under a supplemental budget.