Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Recto On Intel Funds

Gov’t overspent P1.2 billion for intel

The government overshot its “confidential and
intelligence budget” by nearly P1.2 billion in 2003
and 2004, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

“This chronic overspending in intelligence funds is a
scandal that makes the Venable contract a petty
offense, “Recto said, referring to the one awarded by
the National Security Council to a US law firm to
lobby for Charter change funds in Washington.

“Funds for clandestine activities are not only being
audited clandestinely but are also augmented
clandestinely.  The veil of secrecy on intelligence
funds has made possible the improper diversion of
funds to it,” he said.

Recto noted “the whale of a difference” between the
amount of “confidential and intelligence funds”
appropriated by Congress, as contained in the general
appropriations act (GAA), and the amount actually
spent, as reported by the Commission on Audit.

In 2003, the GAA for that year authorized a
“confidential and intelligence fund” of  P1.225

But COA later reported that what was actually spent
was P1.555 billion, or P330 million more, Recto said.

Because the 2003 budget was deemed reenacted in 2004,
due to the failure of Congress to pass one for that
year, the same authorized level of P1.225 billion for
confidential and intelligence expenses should have
been maintained, Recto explained.

“But what was actually spent in 2004 was P2.062
billion, or higher by P837 million,” he said.

Even the 2006 budget acknowledges a lower amount of
“confidential and intelligence” expenses of P1.885
billion in 2004, “which makes it a blatant lie in the
face of the COA report.”

In short, by Recto’s computation, government overshot
its intelligence budget by 27 percent in 2003, and by
69 percent in 2004.

Recto said the “flagrant violation” of the general
appropriations act when it comes to intelligence fund
spending “reduces the power of the purse of Congress
to a farce, and increases the need for congressional
oversight on the use of these funds.”

“Why go through the motion of putting that amount in
the budget when in the end government will be spending
a bigger amount, without advising Congress?” he said.

Recto said he expects Malacanang to defend the
augmentation of intelligence funds by invoking the
power of the President to realign funds under her

“But just the same, there are reportorial requirements
under the law such as quarterly reports to the
chairman of House appropriations committee and the
chairman of the Senate finance committee by officials
who must explain how they spent their intelligence
fund allocation,” he said.

Under budgeting rules, “confidential and intelligence”
funds form part of an agency’s maintenance and other
operating expenses (MOOE).

The former is usually given to Cabinet-rank officials
to allow them to undertake intelligence-gathering
activities which are confidential in nature and in
support of their agency’s mandate.

In 2004, per CoA records, less than 10 departments
received and spent intelligence funds. These were the
Office of the President, DND, DILG, DOTC, DENR, DoJ
and DoF.

Recto said he recognized the need of agencies with
crucial functions to have access to a stash of funds
that could be used to source information. “There is no
debate about that need. In fact, in the case of
revenue agencies, I would even bat for a higher
‘intel’ fund so they can run after smugglers and
economic saboteurs.”

“But procedures must be followed. Oversight must not
be relaxed,” he said.

The “confidential and intelligence funds” Recto was
referring to are “largely distinct and separate” from
the budgets of civilian and military intelligence
gathering agencies.

“The budgets of the latter would include money for
salaries, payment of utilities, rent, supplies, gas
and etc.  What I am referring to are pure intelligence
funds which are used by agencies, even by those not
involved in the spying business.”