Reforms in finance management and budget utilization of the Department of Education (DepEd) are in full swing since Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones took office.
A longtime advocate of efficient and timely spending of public funds on actual goods and services for the people, Briones’ foremost endeavor as the new Department head is to address identified bottlenecks and budget underutilization.
The Department’s Finance-Budget and Performance Monitoring Office, under Usec. Annalyn Sevilla, reported a substantial increase in obligation rate at 67% for combined Capital Outlay (CO) and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) in fiscal year (FY) 2016, with P76.160 billion total obligation out of P114.295 billion total funds. The higher obligation rate is an indication of improved absorptive capacities of the Department.
This spike in obligation rate is a remarkable leap from the obligation rate of 53% in FY 2015, which saw a total of P43.180 billion spending out of P81.293 billion total funds; and the obligation rate of 55% in FY 2014, with P30.044 billion total obligations out of P54.278 billion total funds.
Moreover, DepEd saw an upsurge of 171% (P48.135 billion) in its MOOE and CO obligation rate based on the June 2016 (26% obligation rate or P28.025 billion out of P109.640 billion allotment) and the December 2016 (67% obligation rate or P76.160 billion out of P114.295 billion allotment) Statement of Appropriations, Allotments, Obligations, Disbursements and Balances (SAAODB) reports.
2015 and 2016 Major PAP in Central Office
Major programs that underwent significant increases of obligation include Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd), School Feeding Program, Textbook and Instructional Materials, Abot-Alam, Madrasah, Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF), and Redesigned Technical-Vocational Tools and Equipment.
Comparison of the SAAODB reports as of December 2016 for FY 2015 Continuing Funds by Major Programs, Activities, and Projects (PAP) yielded an obligation rate that ranges from 34% to 98%, while the obligation rate for FY 2016 funds ranges from 0% to 90%.
The Department saved a total of P100.5 million of PAP obligations (July to December 2016) from lapsing by the end of 2016.
Improved Spending in Q2 of FY 2016
Steadfast in her vision of the Department to consistently and conscientiously appropriate the biggest government allocation, Briones reminded all DepEd personnel, “It is our mission. Because if we are behind in our work, then we under deliver. If we do not account for the resources that government gives us then we do a disservice to our people.”
Through the strengthened collaboration with Planning, Procurement, and Finance Services at the management level to push for funds release and utilization, the Department recorded an improved spending in the second half of 2016.
The consistent and frequent monitoring of financial reports from the field increasingly brings in a financial performance mindset, which contributes to the timely delivery of basic education services (i.e. learning materials, teaching and non-teaching positions, and school buildings).
Furthermore, the Briones administration encourages the calibration of budget and accounting skills of Central and field personnel, through training and roll-out of the Financial Management Operations Manual.
Within six months of adopting the best practices of the previous administration while incorporating her own improvements in the budget and procurement processes, Briones, with the solid support of the DepEd Executive Committee, has introduced the following key fiscal management reforms: A delegation of an Executive Lead for Finance,
a separate Undersecretary for Disbursement and Accounting an another
Undersecretary for Finance Budget and Performance Monitoring.
She also assigned a different Undersecretary for Administration and an
Assistant Secretary for Procurement to focus and fast-track day-to-day transactions on these strands.
She also moved for the creation of the Education Programs Delivery Unit (EPDU) to facilitate faster budget utilization and address identified bottlenecks, challenges, and constraints to deliver.
As well as the:
· Creation of five Bids and Awards Committees to fast-track the procurement of education inputs
· Faster feedback mechanism with Regional Directors on fund releases and resolution of procurement challenges
· Streamlined downloading of funds (without waiting for Resolution to Award)
· Use of work financial plan-based Activity Request in place of the long process of Authority to Conduct
· Program Profiling and Portfolio Analysis as basis for needed interventions and policy changes
· Monitoring of financial reports, mainly for all Regions and ongoing programs
· Continuous monitoring of big budget ticket items
· Focus of Program Delivery Review on Budget Education Facilities Fund, textbooks and other instructional materials, GASTPE, and DepEd Computerization Program
The feedback mechanism implemented by the Briones administration with Regional Directors on fund releases and procurement challenges encouraged Regions to obligate their continuing funds, and start submitting reports and feedbacks to ensure that planned activities and educational inputs are provided to learners and DepEd personnel on time. (PIA/DepEd)