Senate approves bill on ‘tighter scrutiny’ of Executive spending

The Senate, voting 18-0, passed on Monday a proposed law mandating the country’s economic managers to render biannual reports to Congress on the “status and directions” of fiscal and monetary policies.

Coauthored by Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, Senate Bill 1483, once enacted into law, will require the secretaries of finance, budget and the National Economic Development Authority and the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to report to a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Fiscal and Monetary Policies twice a year.

In mustering the unanimous vote on third and final reading, its authors said the proposed Fiscal and Monetary Report Act of 2017 is expected to result in “greater transparency and public accountability”  in the formulation and implementation of the Executive department’s economic policies by regularly updating lawmakers on the government’s current fiscal status.

Gatchalian added the remedial legislation was crafted to “ensure transparency in the government’s monetary and fiscal-policy direction by mandating public disclosure of information to members of Congress.

“Under this measure, Congress will be regularly updated on the real economic status of the government,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs and principal sponsor of the measure.

Once enacted into law, monetary and fiscal managers will be required to report before a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Fiscal and Monetary Policies, which include the chairmen of the Senate Committees on Finance, Ways and Means, and Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies serving as members. In addition, the Senate minority bloc shall appoint a member to represent the group in the oversight committee.

On the other hand, the House of Representatives’s panel will be led by the chairman of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, with the chairmen of the House Committees on Appropriation, Ways and Means, Economic Affairs, and Banks and Financial Intermediaries, as well as a representative chosen by the House minority bloc, as members.

Gatchalian said the proposed law, likewise, requires finance department officials to spearhead discussions on government’s fiscal policy and submit written reports on the Consolidated Public Sector Financial Position, National Government Debt Service Expenditures, Foreign and Domestic Borrowings, National Government Revenues  and National Government Financing Program and Outstanding Debt, while the Neda shall submit a written report on economic developments and prospects in the labor market, macro-economy, gross national income, GDP and its components, unemployment, youth unemployment and underemployment.

In addition, the budget department is expected to report on the status of the National Budget, Status of Expenditure Program; Status of Disbursement; Statement of Appropriations, Allotments, and Obligations and Balances.

Gatchalian added that the Bangko Sentral’s biannual report to the joint committee shall include data on monetary aggregates and their components; purchases and sales of foreign exchange and of international reserves; balance of payments; indices of consumer prices and of import and export prices; exports and imports volume and value; and financial status of the BSP and the banking industry.

The senator said the biannual reporting is seen to “enhance public accountability and strengthen fiscal responsibility, consistent with the country’s commitment to good governance” under the Philippine Development Plan 2017 to 2022.

Moreover, he admits the proposed law was crafted to “provide lawmakers the forum to meticulously review government’s spending habits and planning strategies, compared to the present system where congressional oversight of fiscal management is limited to budget analysis during the annual budget season.”

At the same time, Gatchalian said Congress seeks to be regularly informed about how government manages and disburses public funds.

“We need to be updated on the execution of the executive’s fiscal and monetary policies and the real fiscal condition of the economy, so we may timely come up with legislative solutions when they meet stumbling blocks,” the senator said.




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