THE Bangsamoro government has disputed allegations of inefficiency and a lack of transparency in the use of millions in funding for the Bangsamoro regions’ development, ticking off completed projects and affirming full cooperation with state auditors.
The allegations against the Bangsamoro Government and its budget from a group calling itself Transform PH Alliance (TPA) were answered by Ameen Andrew L. Alonto, Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Information Office, in a letter to BusinessMirror. He noted that a group called Malayang Lipunan Movement had made similar allegations against the Bangsamoro Government in June.
Most issues were earlier addressed by the Bangsamoro Government spokesman, Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo, according to Alonto.
He particularly took issue with the TPA’s claim that “All the BARMM government has are press releases announcing ribbon cuttings and plans, yet it’s been more than two years, so where are the deliverables, the finished projects?”
Majority of the ribbon cutting ceremonies being referred to are actually turnovers or inaugurations of completed projects, Alonto said.
For example, of the eight Covid-19 isolation facilities that were targeted in 2020, seven have already been completed. The Bangsamoro Government also expedited the completion and turnover of long delayed barangay health facilities and other infrastructure projects in the region, especially in Maguindanao, he added. “Through the cooperation and collaboration of the different ministries and offices of the Bangsamoro Government, procurement and turnover of 24 units of land ambulance, four units of sea ambulance, and two mobile clinics to the different local government units and hospitals across the region were also realized.
Alonto stressed that, “access to health services and people-centric programs is also a priority in this transition period. Under the Ayudang Medikal mula sa Bangsamoro (AMBAG) Program of the Office of the Chief Minister, 13,401 patients received medical assistance as of 16 July 2021. Free hospitalization was also made available to indigent patients through the Bangsamoro Critical Assistance for Individuals in Response to Emergency Situations (B-CARES) Program.”
He cited the program’s partnership with a leading private pharmacy to cover the cost of prescription drugs of indigent clients.
On relief assistance, the 133 municipalities and 3 cities of the region benefited from Project TABANG or Tulong Alay sa Bangsamoro na Nangangailangan. The Bangsamoro emergency response office, READi, also extended relief to over 250,000 families affected by calamities.
Alonto did not deny that at one point, public school teachers’ salaries were delayed as alleged by TPA, but added that, “administrative issues on the transfer and downloading of funds as well can be expected considering it was the Bangsamoro Government’s first time to use the Block Grant.”
Secondly, this occurred at the height of the pandemic when work was disrupted by the implementation of new working arrangements. Citing the Education Ministry, Alonto said “the processing and release of salaries is now updated and on time.”
Transparency was never an issue with the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government, which while enjoying fiscal autonomy, remains within the purview of the Commission of Audit.
“Again, we in the Bangsamoro Government will always be open to questions as we believe that communication is essential to nation-building. The Bangsamoro Government under the leadership of Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim remains true to its call for moral governance.”
This means, he stressed, “that among the goals of the Bangsamoro Government during this transition period is to establish the foundations for an inclusive, transparent, accountable, responsive, and efficient governance.”
He concluded: “We have never forgotten the tribulations we had to traverse in order to attain this level of autonomy. The memory is deeply embedded in our consciousness. What we have is the product of 17 long years of difficult negotiations. What’s more crucial is that our elders shed decades worth of tears and blood. If there is a push for an extension of the transition period, it is because we want to preserve the gains of the peace process and ensure that the sacrifices of our martyrs will not be in vain. At the end of the day, this is about uplifting the lives of our people and fulfilling the Bangsamoro dream.”