Miriam questions huge overhead expenses of P4.7-B in CCT 2013 budget

SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago today questioned the huge overhead expenses amounting to P4.7 billion in the 2013 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

According to the senator, the CCT budget for salaries, bank service fees, and other overhead expenses appear to be excessive. From PhP3.8 billion in 2012, the DSWD wants a 20% increase, or a total of PhP4.7 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 Php4.7 billion in 2013 can be cut by half, then PhP2.35 billion can be added to the budget for cash grants,” Santiago said. “Can’t the DSWD do things more efficiently and economically?”

Santiago noted the large increase in the salaries and wages of CCT program personnel. The CCT budget for salaries and wages went from PhP1.87 billion in 2012 to PhP2.48 billion in 2013, or an increase of 32%.

“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 PhP346 million in 2012, the DSWD is asking for PhP633 million in its 2013 budget for bank service fees, or a whopping 82% 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 said.

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 Governor (Joey) Salceda to be part of the CCT program?”

Santiago also said the sharp cut in the ARMM CCT budget for 2013 is a red flag. From PhP3.5 billion in 2012, the CCT budget for ARMM was cut by 92%. The 2013 CCT budget for ARMM is now P251 million.

Santiago wants to know the basis for the PhP3.5 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,” Santiago said.

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