82% rise in banking fees; wages at 32%
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman submitted a huge budget for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program which saw budget increases at 82 percent for banking fees; an increase in salaries pegged at 32 percent and a 20 percent increase for overhead expenses.
At the same time, the CCT budget for the Autonmous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said to be among the “poorest of the poor” was slashed by 92 percent in the 2013 CCT budget.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago yesterday questioned the huge banking fees the government has allotted for next year’s implementation of the CCT, or the P40 billion dole-out program, claimed to be the program for the poorest of the poor in society.
The banking fees were jacked up by Soliman by a whopping 82 percent increase in the current budget.
Ironically, the Commission on Audit report on the CCT for the year 2011 said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is going to miss its target number of family-beneficiares under government’s Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) even as the CoA bared that the beneficiaries of the program dropped in 2011 compared to 2010.
In a Consolidated Audit Report on Official Development Assistance Projects for the year 2011, the CoA said that the amount that has been given out by the DSWD also decreased, yet the DSWD is seeking a huge and excessive budget for 2013.
Santiago, in raising her observations on the apparent sizeable amount for the 2013 overhead expenses of the DSWD for the CCT program, also noted the 32 percent increase for salaries of personnel administering the CCT.
The said increases appear to be in conflict, insofar as allotment of funding for CCT program is concerned, Santiago said, citing the sharp cut for the said program in the ARMM budget for 2013, calling it a red flag.
From P3.5 billion in 2012, the CCT budget for ARMM was cut by 92 percent,bringing in the amount down to P251 million.
Santiago said she wants to know the basis for the P3.5 billion allocation for ARMM in 2012, and for the large cut in the 2013 CCT budget for the region.
“Are they telling us that there are less poor people in ARMM in 2012 than in 2013? What was so urgent or important in 2012 that they needed billions of pesos for the CCT program? The DSWD has a lot of explaining to do,” she said.
According to the senator, the CCT budget for salaries, bank service fees, and other overhead expenses appear to be excessive.
From P3.8 billion in 2012, the DSWD wants a 20 percent increase, or a total of P4.7 billion, for overhead expenses in administering the CCT program in 2013.
“The idea here is to reduce the overhead expenses, so a bigger part of the budget can be distributed to beneficiaries of the CCT program. For example, if the projected overhead expenses of P4.7 billion in 2013 can be cut by half, then P2.35 billion can be added to the budget for cash grants,” Santiago said.
“Can’t the DSWD do things more efficiently and economically?”
Apparently not. The CoA, in its report on the 2011 CCT, said that the decline in the number of beneficiaries raises doubts on the capacity of the DSWD to achieve the objectives of the program, which was allocated some P21-billion in 2011.
If there is already doubt on the capacity of the DSWD tp achieve the objectives of the program in 2011, it is evident that even with a bigger budget, the DSWD will fail in achieving these objectives, both in 2012 and 2013, considering that the number of beneficiaries had decreased, in comparison to the number of beneficiaries in 2010.
The CoA report also disclosed that the DSWD had incurred a whooping P3.77-billion in unaccounted disbursements from the CCT funds; deficient supervision over the registration of qualified households; questionable and extravagant purchases using program funds.
COA reported that total disbursements for 2011 reached P14,486,750,011.28 but only 10,716,588,449.28 was “properly documented and verified.
Santiago noted the large increase in the salaries and wages of CCT program personnel. The CCT budget for salaries and wages went from P1.87 billion in 2012 to P2.48 billion in 2013, or an increase of 32 percent.
“I assume that the workers being hired by the DSWD to administer the CCT program are contractual workers. So how many are now in the DSWD payroll? How are they distributed in different parts of the country? Is there any correlation between the number of workers and the number of beneficiaries, by region?” Santiago said.
The senator also questioned the bank service fees being paid by the government in connection with the CCT program.
From P346 million in 2012, the DSWD is asking for P633 million in its 2013 budget for bank service fees, or a whopping 82 percent increase.
“The DSWD must explain the nature of these bank service fees. Are they using private banks or public banks? In the case of private banks, was there competitive bidding in selecting the service banks?” Santiago pointed out.
According to Santiago, the overhead expenses in administering the CCT program can be reduced by asking the LGUs to help out. She said that despite the devolution of social welfare functions to LGUs under the Local Government Code, a big part of the social welfare budget is still being administered by the central government without involving LGUs.
“A large part of the administrative costs of the CCT program can be reduced by allowing LGUs some role in the implementation of the program. It is a matter of trusting LGUs. Can’t we operate by assuming that local elected officials are trustworthy, and penalize them when they prove to be untrustworthy? Or are we better off trusting unelected, contractual workers in the DSWD payroll?” Santiago said.
“Are we saying, for example, that we can’t trust Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to be part of the CCT program?”
In the CoA report which was earlier published by The Tribune, the audit body also revealed that in several instances, persons engaged by the DSWD to conduct “family development sessions” failed to help families comply with CCT program requirements.
They recommended that sanctions be imposed on these persons called Municipal links (MLs) and City links (CLs) even as the CoA urged the DSWD to submit explanations about the drop in the number of beneficiaries and the fluctuation in the number of households registered in the program.
“The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program lacked qualitative performance indicators which will measure the improvements brought about by the program on the health care of beneficiaries, increase in the enrolment, reduction of the incidence of child labor, etc.,” said CoA in the report.
State auditors also questioned the use of P2.75 million worth of what the DSWD called “advocacy materials” that were neither “responsive nor supportive” of program objectives.