Board members agree: abolish SPF

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/02 September) Some members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in separate interviews Monday agreed to abolish the local ‘pork barrel’ dubbed special projects fund (SPF) to keep off from complications. 

Each provincial board member receives P3 million each year, half of it to be spent on “hard projects” and the other half to “soft projects” in their districts. 

Board member Jay Albarece, a lawyer, said he supports the idea of abolishing the SPF and instead give it to the appropriate line agencies.

“They are in the better position to know what to prioritize,” he added.

Sectors have pointed out to media that there is no difference between the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the SPF.

Albarece said this will also enable the local legislators to focus on legislation and to police the executive on how they spend public funds.

Albarece chairs the committee on rules and privileges and ethics and the committee on laws.

But Albarece said if abolished, the board members’ maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), which is embedded in the SPF, should be retained.

He added that the SPF could be prone to corruption because it is left in the discretion of the board members.

Board member Ranulfo Pepito, former head of the committee on appropriations, said he supports the idea of abolishing the SPF but there must be a clear mechanism to ensure that individuals and groups who seek their assistance will be attended to by the provincial government.

He said if it will not be abolished, then the safety nets should be strengthened to monitor and control the funds.

Pepito noted that the previous provincial board passed an ordinance putting a cap on the assistance provided from the SPF under the Assistance to Individuals and Families in Crisis Situations (AIFCS). He said assistance for burial, medicines, and hospitalization is limited to P1,500.

He clarified that educational assistance will be limited to P1,500 per student per semester.

Pepito added that in the ordinance those asking for fares and food will be given P150 per person.  He proposed that there should be a pharmacy dedicated to the assistance provided by the provincial government on medicines so that money will no longer leave the coffers of the provincial government.

The “hard projects” also include requests by local government units for assistance during their foundation day activities.

Majority floor leader Clive Quiño told Bukidnon News Monday afternoon he will also call for the abolition of the SPF if needed.

He clarified; however, that there are no adverse reports yet that the board members are abusing the SPF so it would be unfair to do it without a review.

He said there must be a review of the recipients of the SPF to check if indeed it went to the right recipients and projects.

Board member Gordon Torres, vice chair for the committee on appropriations, said the SPF should be removed if it is the only way to keep the board members from accusations they were abusing public funds.

Another board member, who asked not to be quoted, said with the SPF it was too difficult to turn down hundreds of constituents who ask for assistance.

Albarece added they have also been stricter on financial assistance to non-government organizations (NGOs) from their special projects fund (SPF) because of the problems brought by bogus NGOs using the Priority Development Assistance Projects of congressmen and senators.

He added that along with Commission on Audit requirements, the provincial board is studying regulations to impose upon NGOs seeking to avail of their SPF.

He cited that among the measures is to ensure they submit accomplishment reports and liquidation of the funds they obtained from the provincial government.

Quiño said some of the NGOs who approached him find the proposed measures too taxing. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)