Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman is strongly advocating for amendments to the decades-old Republic Act 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA). This is to further help government agencies address difficulties in the procurement of their programs, activities and projects, which is identified as one of the biggest bottlenecks in government spending.

According to Secretary Pangandaman, the proposed amendments to the GPRA shall be presented to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. next week.

“We already have the amendments and we are ready to present this to the President on Tuesday next week, during our Cabinet meeting,” the Budget Secretary said.

Following the President’s approval, a physical version of the bill would be delivered to both the Senate and the House for subsequent filing.

“We have steps to address government spending and budget utilization. For government procurement, it is the only one that needs legislation and you know that during the SONA (State of the Nation Address) of the President, it was again mentioned to amend the Government Procurement Reform Act,” Secretary Pangandaman expressed.

Catch-up Plans

Earlier last week, Secretary Pangandaman issued Circular Letter No. 2023-10 requiring agencies to submit “catch-up plans” to facilitate budget execution for the rest of Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.

The DBM issued the guidelines for budget utilization following the latest Cash Operations Report of the Bureau of Treasury that the National Government spent below the P2.582 trillion disbursement program for the first semester by P170.5 billion, or 6.6 percent as of 30 June 2023.

The underspending, according to the Budget Secretary, is caused by substantial outstanding checks worth P124.1 billion as reported by government-servicing banks; lower-than-programmed interest payments; ongoing registration and validation of beneficiaries; procurement-related difficulties such as late delivery of goods and failed biddings due to withdrawal or disqualification of bidders, unavailability of competent suppliers, and lack of or late submission of supporting documents, among others.

“As what I would always emphasize, we consider budget utilization rates in evaluating the absorptive capacity of agencies. We view low utilization rate as the agency’s limited capacity to utilize new funds. However, those agencies who need to increase their utilization rates have promised to produce catch-up plans during the budget deliberations. So, we hope that their BURs will increase by then,” Secretary Pangandaman said.

Government Purchase Card

The DBM recently partnered with the Land Bank of the Philippines for the use of a digital government purchase card (GPC) for agencies’ faster procurement of immediate miscellaneous expenses, cutting the time needed to liquidate government transactions, promoting reduced cash handling by government agencies, operational efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the disbursement of public funds. — PR