DOST's ₱2-Billion “Pork Barrel Version 2” DAP fund also used for baby food – Senator Lacson and Pia Cayetano

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Mario Montejo revealed on Monday that aside from weather forecasting equipment, the 2-billion allocated to the agency in 2011 under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was also used for baby food.

Montejo said during the hearing of the agency's proposed 3.476 billion budget for 2014 that the baby food worth 40 million is part of their malnutrition reduction program.

"We were given DAP for our "Baby Food" malnutrition reduction program and these were allocated 40-Million, as mentioned complimentary baby food through the initiative of Sen. [Panfilo] Lacson and Pia Cayetano. They indicated that they wanted to support [the project]," Montejo told the Senate Committee on Finance.

The secretary also said that Cayetano also allocated 6 million for the agency's science bus project.

Sen. Ralph Recto, who presided the DOST's budget hearing, sought clarifications on how the DAP funds were used by the agency.

Montejo pointed to Mario Capanzana, head of the Food Nutrition and Research Institute to explain how the two senators' DAP funds were utilized. The FNRI is an attached agency under the DOST.

"We prepare complimentary foods where we provide facilities for production. This is implemented through DOST regional services, processing facilities such as LGUs and other partners will be able to produce the complimentary foods," Capanzana explained.

Interviewed after the hearing. Montejo said Cayetano allocated about 10 million while Lacson appropriated some P30 million in DAP funds in 2011.

Lacson denied that he availed of any fund through the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during his incumbency as senator.

"If true, it must have been an amendment that I introduced during the plenary period of amendments which was accepted by the sponsor and not objected to by any senator," Lacson said in a text message to reporters.

"Otherwise, since I was not availaing of my pork barrel allocations, there was no way I could have allotted any amount to DOST or any other line agency for that matter. Definitely, it couldn't have come from DAP, because an amendment made on the floor could only come from the funds slashed from other departments and therefore, originally part of the budget bill," Lacson explained.

During the hearing, Montejo said that a big chunk of the 2-billion DAP fund was used for Project Noah and the establishment of the Advance Device and Material Analysis, which was inaugurated by President Benigno Aquino III a few moths ago.

He said that the agency is also using a 220-million Cloud Computing System, a cutting edge computing system which will be used by the Department of Education as well as SMEs in Basilan and other government projects in Region 9 and 10.

National treasury

Recto, meanwhile, batted that the Congress act on pending measures that will put all off budget funds, including the multi-billion Malampaya funds, into the national treasury and therefore included in the budget appropriations.

Recto noted that there is no proper accounting for the 130 billion Malampaya fund since its implementation.

"Pag may na dagdag na collection, 'pag may dagdag na borrowing, 'pag nag-realign ba tayo katulad ng DAP, 'pag nagkaron ka ng savings, pwede bang gastusin sa unprogrammed fund? Yun ba yung DAP?," Recto asked.

Recto reiterated the need to reform the system for the use of lump sum appropriations now that it has been highlighted and actually now a subject of public outrage.

"We have removed two presidents, and now we have a former president who is under detention. Is that what we want to happen every time?," he asked.

Recto said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should explain where the 127 billion DAP funds for 2011 and 2012 were placed in the same manner that he wants transparency in the use of the over 130-billion in Malampaya funds.

He noted that while the DAP is not an off-budget item, the mechanism on how it is spent should be explained. "I don't think it is totally wrong. I am with the President and with Sec. Butch Abad with regard to certain mechanisms… if there is an expenditure not is the budget,  I think that is not allowed. Should you then impound an entre project?," he asked.

"Tanggalin mo yung funding ng isang buong project at ilagay mo sa isang mechanismo called DAP and then spend it to somewhere else, I don't think tama naman yun. It is possible, it is legal but not necessarily good budgeting practice," Recto noted.

COA reviewing DAP funds

Dr. Emilio Asi, resident auditor of the DOST, explained that Project Noah has been partially evaluated. He said the project is set to be completed by 2014.

"More on, we encounter problem on the implementation…considering that while they release the funds through the implementing agency. What we monitor is the status of the funds," Asi said.

With respect to fund received out of the DAP, some 600-million has yet to be received by the DOST.

"At the end of the term that should be returned to the treasury. The DOST requested for the utilization for 2012 because we are discussing 2011," Asi explained.

As regards the DOST's DREAM project, Asi noted that the project has not been completed yet. As such, the Commission on Audit can only monitor the progress of the project and determine if the funds went to the project properly.

In the DOST website,  DREAM project is a component of Project Noah which aims to create stunning 3D images—reliable, detailed, and up-to-date flood models of the country's 18 major river basins plus watersheds, and later will include all other flood-prone areas in the country.

In two years, the DREAM project will complete all flood models of the major river basins, which is roughly 33 percent of the country's total land area.

PhitSTAR

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