THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Tuesday that easier procurement laws, including an upcoming amendment to the procurement law, are expected to curb government underspending in 2024.

At the Development Budget Coordination Committee briefing of the proposed 2024 budget before the Senate finance committee, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said the Government Procurement Policy Board is working on simplifying the law’s implementing rules and regulations to address procurement bottlenecks.

“We are taking steps to address government spending and budget utilization,” M. Pangandaman said.

“We will be presenting our amendments to the Government Procurement Act to the President next week… We don’t have the bill yet, but we have the specific amendments.”

Senator Loren Regina B. Legarda had inquired about possible government underspending continuing into next year.

In his second address to Congress last month, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. called for changes to the procurement law.

Ms. Pangandaman said the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024 was optimized to put implementation-ready projects front and center.

The DBM estimates that in the first half, the government had failed to use P170.5 billion in budget allocations.

Ms. Pangandaman said procurement had been hindered by issues like the late delivery of goods due to disqualified bidders, and failure of suppliers and creditors.

Ms. Pangandaman said the DBM has been pressing agencies to procure as soon as possible to ensure the implementation of their flagship programs.

She added that the DBM plans to adopt a government purchase card for government agencies as an alternative payment solution for procuring goods and services.

The card aims to cut the time needed to liquidate government transactions and to promote reduced cash handling by government agencies.

The DBM will also fast-track the issuance of allotment orders to allow agencies to start the execution of programs as soon as the budget becomes effective, Ms. Pangandaman said.

The DBM said in July that it would seek to fully digitize public procurement to expedite the delivery of basic services and reducing costs.

Earlier this month, Ms. Pangandaman said the DBM will review the spending performance of government agencies and require them to submit “catch-up” plans to make up for delayed spending.

The National Government’s budget deficit narrowed 18% to P551.7 billion at the end of June due to the spending slowdown. Government spending rose 0.42% year on year to P2.41 trillion in the first half, missing the spending target by 6.6%. — John Victor D. Ordoñez