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COA Flags DICT Over P5.78-Billion Unspent Budget For 2020

COA Flags DICT Over P5.78-Billion Unspent Budget For 2020

The Commission on Audit (COA) has admonished the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for its failure to spend P5.78 billion of its budget for 2020, including P2.94 billion allocated for the implementation of key programs aimed at improving internet connectivity in the country.

In its 2020 annual audit report on the DICT, the COA noted that out of the total budget of the agency amounting P7.46 billion, only 76% or P5.64 billion was obligated as of yearend, leaving a balance of P1.82 billion in unobligated fund.

The COA said of the obligated amount, only 29.76% or P1.68 billion was actually disbursed, leaving a balance of P3.96 billion in unpaid obligations.

The unobligated fund plus the unpaid obligations translate to P5.78 billion in unspent budget, the bulk of which was allocated for the implementation of the agency's key Information and Communications Technology (ICT) programs.

The COA's breakdown showed that of the allocated budget for the implementation of ICT programs amounting P 3.35 billion, only 65.23% or P2.19 billion was obligated as of yearend, of which, only 18.61% or P406.82 million was actually disbursed, leaving P2.94 billion in unspent funds.

The COA said the implementation of the ICT projects was an important component of the government's response to the COVID pandemic, especially as workers and students were heavily relying on internet connectivity.

“Based on the foregoing conditions, it appears that the Department was not able to maximize the utilization of the appropriations and allotments which may adversely affect its delivery of services to the public especially in this time of pandemic where the DICT is in the frontline of government’s response against the COVID-19 and when most employees are working at home and students are attending classes online,” the COA said.

Among the DICT's programs identified to have very low fund disbursement rates were the “Free WiFi-Connectivity in Public Places, (and) State Colleges and Universities,” “National Broadband Plan,” “National Government Portal,” “National Government Data Center Infrastructure” and “ICT Industry and Countryside Development.”

The COA noted that of a budget of P1.41-billion from the free WiFi connectivity project, only P123.66 million was actually disbursed as of yearend.

Meanwhile, of the P177.18 million budget for the implementation of the National Broadband Plan for 2020, only P29.54 million was disbursed as of yearend. The NBP serves as the government's blueprint for faster internet speed though installation of fiber optics and other wireless technologies in several parts of the country.

Of the P356.17 million budget for the National Government Portal or NGP, only P15.84 million was disbursed as of yearend. The NGP is a single website for all government information, transactions and services accessible through a common URL:

Of the P267.78 million budget for the National Government Data Center Infrastructure program, only P4.038 million was disbursed while of the P480.97 million budget for the ICT Industry and Countryside Development, only P44.44 million was disbursed.

The COA further said that of P61.46 million budget for the National ICT Household Survey (NICTHS), not a single centavo was disbursed as of yearend. Based on the DICT's website, the NICTHS project “aims to provide statistical information deemed essential in monitoring relevant dimensions of ICT usage in household and by individuals.”

The COA noted the DICT's low obligation and disbursement of its funds for key programs “reflects its implementation capabilities.”

“This could mean that the Department has low capability to utilize legislated budget or it may have set ambitious targets with a huge amount of appropriations disregarding its absorptive capacity,” the COA pointed out.

The COA said its audit team has yet to receive any comment from the DICT regarding the audit observations and recommendations.

The COA's record showed that the Consolidated Management Letter containing its audit findings and recommendations was received by the office of DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II on July 30.