Enrile to abolish irrelevant oversight committees

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Senate President Juan Ponce on Friday announced that he is considering filing a resolution or a bill calling for abolition of oversight committees that are no longer relevant or needed.

This was one of the options of Enrile in response to the concerns raised by the minority over the disparity of budget allocations on oversight committees.

“I am well aware of concerns raised over the disparity in the budgets of the oversight committees. Some oversight committees have bigger budgets than regular committees. This is due to the scope of work of the oversight committee, and the fact that even the budgetary allocation of some oversight committees are mandated by law, meaning the laws creating such oversight committees specify how much allocation the oversight committee gets each year,” Enrile said.

The other options, Enrile said by filing an appropriate resolution or a bill calling for a review of the    budgetary allocations provided for oversight committees under the laws created them, and if necessary, amend these laws either to provide a “sunset provision”, or reduce their budgets if found excessive.

“The disparities in the budgets of these committees, and the chairmanships/co-chairmanships which are mostly mandated by law to be given to the chairmen of the relevant permanent committees of the Senate and House naturally result in unequal distribution of these committees and their budgets among the Senators. Some are chairing only one oversight committee, others, two or even three, but that is largely due to their chairmanship of the permanent committees. This has been a festering issue especially for me as Senate President because to equalize everyone is close to impossible under these circumstances”, Enrile said.

Enrile added that a moratorium on the creation of more oversight committees in the future may be appropriate while the review is being undertaken.

“After all, the matter of the proper implementation of the laws we pass rests on the Executive branch,” he said.

Under the present system, the Senate has 37 permanent committees but the number of oversight committees has swelled to 33 over the years.

“Now, I am being blamed for this proliferation of oversight committees and the huge total budgetary allocation for them. We have to set the record straight,” Enrile said.

Enrile clarified and confirmed the increase in the number and budgets of oversight committees in the Senate had more than doubled since 2010 largely because “new laws were passed which also created new oversight committees” but he added that “there are others that were created by virtue of a resolution adopted by the Senate, upon the initiation of the respective chairmen of the regular committees”.

Enrile said that since 2010, new oversight committees were created and funded under several laws such as RA 9700 providing for the Oversight Committee on Agrarian Reform; RA 10121 for the Oversight Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act; RA 9593 for the Oversight Committee on Tourism; RA 10155 for the Oversight Committee on Public Expenditure; and RA 10022 for he Oversight Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs.

Meanwhile, there were oversight committees which were created by virtue of Senate Resolutions approved by the body such as the Select Oversight Committee on Intelligence Funds under Senate Resolution No. (SRN)11, and the Oversight Committee on Local Government under SRN. 549;

Enrile disclosed that in 2009 alone, there were seven (7) other oversight committees which were created by law and by resolution.”  These are:
1)   Oversight Committee on Affordable Medicines Act (RA 9502);
2)   Oversight Committee on Automated Elections System (RA 9369);
3)   Oversight Committee on Cooperatives (RA 9520);
4)   Oversight Committee on the Human Security Act (RA 9372);
5)   Oversight Committee on Climate Change Act (S. Reso No. 157);
6)   Oversight Committee on Economic Affairs (S. Reso No. 159);
7)   Oversight Committee on Government Procurement (Reso No. 552).

Enrile cited the Congressional Oversight Committee on Fisheries and Agriculture Modernization (COCAFAM) which had a budget allocation of P37.879 in 2012 and the same amount this year. The Congressional Oversight Committee on Science and Technology (COMSTE), he said, also had a big budgetary allocation of P36 million in 2012 and in 2013.

In contrast, Enrile said, the Bio Fuels Act Oversight Committee had a budget of only P5 million each in 2012 and 2013, while the Oversight Committee on Disaster Risk and Reduction and Management had a budget of P5 million in 2012 but this increased to P13.75 million this year. He added that the Joint Congressional Power Commission (POWERCOM) has an annual budget of P25 million, as provided for under the EPIRA Law.

Enrile pointed out that all senators, including those belonging to the minority, are aware of the expansion in the number of oversight committees as well as in the increase in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) since 2012.

According to Senate records, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago chairs the Oversight Committees on the Absentee Voting Act, the budget of which for 2012 was P10 million and for 2013, P10 million, while the Automated Elections Act was allocated P15 million both for 2012 and 2013.

The members of the Minority are also chairing some oversight committees: Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano chairs the E-Commerce Oversight Committee with annual budgets of P6 million in 2012 and 2013, and the   Bases Conversion Oversight Committee with a P10 million budget in 2013. Sen. Pia Cayetano chairs the Clean Water Act Oversight Committee with a budget of P9.542 million in 2012 and P10 million in 2013. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV heads the Government Procurement Oversight Committee with a P10 million budget in 2012 and P15 million for 2013.

Only Sen. Vicente Sotto III, the Majority Leader, and Sen. Joker Arroyo, and the Senate President, among all the Senators currently serving their terms do not chair any oversight committee.

Enrile further clarified that the MOOE budgets of the oversight committees are not liquidated by mere certifications.  He said “COA requires that these be supported by receipts and other documents (for example, consultancy contracts, lease contracts, plantilla, or other applicable supporting documents).”

The Senate President said that earlier on, Sen. Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson had taken on the difficult task of reviewing the budgets of these oversight committees and all requests for augmentation, for the purpose of rationalizing them, taking into account the actual needs of these committees in performing their functions, and submitting the appropriate recommendations for the Senate’s consideration.

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