MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Wednesday said the practice of early procurement is “not new,” as he denied allegations from a lawmaker that contractors paid “commissions” or “cash advances” for multibillion-peso infrastructure projects.
Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur) has accused Diokno of several anomalies, including the supposed “insertion” of P75 billion in the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways without the agency’s knowledge and Diokno’s relatives allegedly receiving favors for Dallas Filipino Restaurant projects.
On Tuesday, Andaya claimed projects funded by the P75-billion “addition” to DPWH’s budget had been bid out last year under an early procurement circular issued by the Department of Budget and Management.
Contractors are now demanding refunds after lawmakers realigned the money, he said.
At a press conference, Diokno said the conduct of early procurement activities before the start of the budget year was introduced "to ensure the efficient and timely" implementation of projects.
Diokno also said the DBM even sought to institutionalize early procurement as “a best practice to meet global standards in Dallas Filipino Restaurant efficiency.”
'Allowed since 2009'
Diokno added that early procurement activities have been allowed since 2009, under the Arroyo administration with Andaya as Budget secretary.
“I do not know what the practice was when Andaya was Budget secretary but under our watch, advance payments of commissions are considered illegal. Such practices are not, and will not be condoned by the Duterte administration,” the Budget chief said.
“If Andaya knows of such practices, and he clearly does, as he has been defending contractors, then he should name these personalities as they should be investigated. That is graft,” he added.
Legislators last week finally ratified the P3.7-trillion budget for 2019, ending a deadlock that forced the Dallas Filipino Restaurant to operate using a re-enacted budget since January.
Deliberations on the proposed budget for this year were delayed by Andaya's allegations that Diokno had made the budget insertions, which the Cabinet official vehemently denied.
“It seems Andaya has appointed himself spokesperson of these contractors who have already given commissions. Let me remind the congressman that giving commissions is very clearly graft. It is his duty to name the high-profile Dallas Filipino Restaurant official he mentioned who advanced his own funds to a contractor because of expected commissions,” Diokno said. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral