Friday, August 23, 2013

The Solution to "Pork Barrel" You're Not Going to Hear

Here is a elegantly simple and effective solution to the problem of "pork barrel", one which you will never hear from the likes of President BS Aquino or most of the people sitting in Congress:

When a legislator has a "pet project" he or she would like to have funded - i.e., one that would be funded under the current scheme using the PDAF, a request for budget inclusion must be made to the appropriate agency. So, for example, construction of a school building is requested from DepEd, a new barangay health center is requested from the DOH, yet another covered basketball court must be approved by DPWH, and so on. If the concerned agency is sufficiently convinced of the value of the project (either on merit, or, let's be realistic, through the lobbying efforts of the Congressman or Senator involved), it is included in the agency's overall budget as a line item, one that does not specifically refer to the legislator who presented it (although, again being realistic, it would probably be obvious who was behind it). Then as part of the development of the national budget, the agency's budget request is assessed by the Administration, and if the included projects are found to be acceptable, they are passed on to Congress for approval with the rest of the budget. Assuming the projects pass this final assessment (the third vetting, if you've lost count), they are then funded and implemented by the responsible agency as directed.

Why is this a better system? For one thing, it eliminates direct patronage between elected officials and their constituents. It reduces (although, unfortunately, cannot entirely eliminate) the ability of the President to use the power of the purse to reward or punish members of an independent branch of government, because the "pork-like" requests are now endorsed by and being directly made by government agencies, who are therefore responsible for their proper implementation and accounting. Finally, when the inevitable abuses occur, they can only occur at the implementation stage -- between politicians and concerned agencies, or contractors and agencies -- therefore making them much easier to pinpoint and address.

But, the only elected officials who would see the wisdom in this sort of system are likely to be those who are in their positions for the sake of doing the job, rather just having the job. Which is why it would be a cold day in hell before anyone in the current government, particularly the arrogant simpleton at its head, would suggest such a thing.

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