Garcia: We will look for other sources of funds aside from SRP
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Cebu City proposed 2021 annual budget has been heavily scrutinized by the opposition councilors during the ongoing budget hearings done with the committee as a whole since November 24, 2020.
Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, the chairperson of the committee on budget and finance, said that the budget hearings have been sailing smoothly so far.
“It is very encouraging because the councilors are giving their inputs and suggestions. Towards the end of the budget hearing, the local finance committee will be discussing the final budget proposal,” said Garcia.
However, the opposition councilors have questioned the use of P3 billion from the sale of the lots at the South Road Properties (SRP), since they have long claimed that the sale was illegal.
In a separate interview, Mayor Edgardo Labella said the SRP sales can be used as funds as there are no legal impediments for doing such.
“I am confident that we can use the SRP funds,” said the mayor.
Garcia said that there was a necessity to source the funds from the SRP sale because the projected tax collection is lower due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Still, the local finance committee has been ordered to find a way to source the funds from other unspent budgets in the past years.
“Tan-awon nato if we can slash on the traveling and training expenses. The committee will definitely look into those suggestions,” said the councilor.
The goal of the local finance committee would be to find these unspent budgets for projects that have not been realized in the past years and revert this back to the general budget to be used as a source of funds.
This way the SRP sales will be untouched and can be used for future budgets.
Aside from these unspent past budgets, the local finance may also include the savings of the city from the 2020 budget including the savings from the P3 billion budget allocation for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) response.
In the liquidation report of the City Auditor’s Office, the city saved a portion of the budget.
This was due to the reprogramming of some of the funds that were supposed to be used for others such as that for a mobile hospital amounting to P30 million.
These unspent funds can be redirected to the 2021 budget as well.
Meanwhile, opposition councilors expressed dismay on the liquidation of the COVID-19 funds as they expected a clearer and more comprehensive liquidation.
“In the spirit of fiscal transparency and accountability, the city government, through the executive department, should liquidate the COVID-19 fund utilization complete with supporting documents. Our constituents must be fully apprised of every cent that was spent for the city’s COVID-19 response so the people can hold their government accountable for where their taxes go.”
“The money that we spend is not the money of the city government but the money of the people of the city. What is involved here are billions of pesos thus fiscal transparency is more crucial than ever,” said Dizon.
Garcia said that if the councilors want the procurement documents they can easily request such from the necessary offices.
However, there was no need to bring all these documents to the plenary for discussion. /rcg
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