Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Senate expunges DICT’s P300-M confidential fund but allows P280-M ‘line item budget’

The Senate has denied the request of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for P300-million allocation as confidential fund in its 2024 budget but approved P280 million as a “line item budget” for its spending requirements.

Sen. Grace L. Poe led the deliberation of the DICT budget during the Senate plenary debates on Tuesday, Nov. 21. During the interpellation of Sen Aquilino Pimentel III, the Senate minority leader, it was clarified that the DICT will no longer have confidential funds in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget.

Poe said the DICT requested a P300-million allocation as confidential fund but the Senate “was able to find a way so that we will still be able to supply the needs of the DICT for them to be able to do their functions properly.”

Poe said instead of granting the agency a P300-million confidential fund, the amount of P280 million was put in a line item budget “so that it’s easier for us to be able to monitor it.”

She stressed, however, that the budget committee did not see any need to put the additional P20 million in a line item budget.

Confidential and intelligence funds have become a contentious issue in budget deliberations recently because of the difficulty in tracking its use by government agencies. It can also be recalled that former DICT undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. questioned the use of such funds during the term of former DICT secretary Gregorio Honasan, in which P300 million in intelligence funds from the agency were utilized for still unspecified reasons.  

During the Senate hearing, Poe presented the proposed 2024 budget of the DICT and its attached agencies – the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), National Privacy Commission (NPC), and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) — amounting to P9.946 billion.

During the interpellation of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the DICT also vowed to review existing policies related to the regulation of online delivery platforms.

DICT secretary Ivan John E. Uy was joined by the heads of the CICC, NPC, and NTC and other department officials and personnel during the wee hours of Tuesday to witness the termination of the period of interpellation and the consideration of the agency’s FY 2024 budget.

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