THE DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) is drafting a simpler version of the proposed budget reform bill and plans to submit it to Congress in 2020’s “first quarter.”

“What we’re planning to do is institutionalize the cash budgeting system, so we’re simplifying the bill,” Undersecretary Laura B. Pascua said in an interview on Thursday.

’Yung things na pwedeng magawa administratively inaalis na namin (We will remove budget reforms that can be done administratively by the Executive branch which is faster).”

Ms. Pascua said the department plans to ask House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Isidro T. Ungab of Davao City’s 3rd District and Senate counterpart Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara to sponsor the measure.

She said the department hopes Congress will approve the reform before the first regular session ends on June 5 next year. “It usually takes more than a year… palagay ko dapat before the Congress ends for this session,” Ms. Pascua said.

The measure will institutionalize a cash-based budgeting system, which forces government offices to spend allocations within the fiscal year. It grants a three-month extended payment period for goods and services that will have been delivered by Dec. 31.

The measure is among the administration’s priority legislative measures, along with the proposed fifth round of government salary standardization and the Freedom of Information bill.

The government shifted to cash-based budgeting in 2019 from a multi-year obligation-based system. The previous system allowed agencies to spend past the fiscal year, which resulted in underspending.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Sept. 9 issued Executive Order No. 91, s. 2019, to reiterate the government’s policy to adopt the new budget framework, despite late enactment of the P3.662-trillion national budget for 2019.

The DBM said the obligation rate of agencies has improved since 2017 when the national budget provided a two-year validity for appropriations.

The DBM reported that obligation rates in 2017 and 2018 were recorded at 95.6% and 93.1%, respectively; higher than 85.4% in 2015 and 84.6% in 2016.

“We’re doing the system now. We plan to show Congress that the system works,” Ms. Pascua said.

The 2020 budget will adopt the tighter spending deadline. The proposed P4.1-trillion national budget awaits approval this week at the Bicameral Conference Committee.

Congress plans to submit the 2020 spending plan to Mr. Duterte ahead of its Dec. 21, 2019-January 19, 2020 Christmas-New Year break.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez has filed a measure proposing to institutionalize the new budget framework, while Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva had earlier said he is drafting his own version.

The proposal nearly made it out of the 17th Congress after it secured third-reading approval at the House in March 2018, but failed to hurdle the Senate before it adjourned on June 3. — Charmaine A. Tadalan