FFE Magazine

As FOI bill lags, another transparency bill Advances

 

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  While the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill continues to languish in the House of Representatives, another bill which seeks to improve transparency in government transactions has scored a victory as it advances to the plenary level.   The Full Disclosure Act of 2013 or House Bill 19 has been approved by the House’s Committee on Public Information this week after receiving unanimous approval from the committee chair and vice-chair. Several congressmen have also offered to sponsor the bill once plenary hearings begin.   The Full Disclosure Bill seeks to lay bare all government office’s budget and how they used it. It forces all government departments, agencies, bureaus and local government units to reveal, even without the public’s request, the following documents in a clear and obvious manner:

  • budget and budget execution documents
  • accountability reports
  • annual financial statements
  • annual procurement plan
  • invitations to bid
  • accomplishment reports
  • financial and narrative accomplishment reports
  • statements that show utilisation of various funds pertaining to disaster risk reduction, special education, local development, gender and development and trust funds
  • all other similar documents

Officials who do not follow the measures will be fined Php500,000 once the bill becomes a law.   Bill author Camarines Sur Congresswoman Leni Robredo said in her explanatory note that ‘It is important to know how government funds are managed, disbursed and used, recognising the fact that the funds are hard-earned money of the people.   ‘The proposed law not only ensures transparency but… also deters public officials from committing graft and corruption.   She added that the bill ‘will allow people to access the data at any time without any burden of technicalities and bureaucracy.’   Meanwhile, Malacañang said on Wednesday that the FOI bill needs further discussion because there are still ‘concerns coming from the legislators and those concerns need to be addressed… a healthy discussion will lead to a better product.’   Citizens are unhappy with the news and the snail’s pace progress of the FOI bill in Congress. To push for faster realisation of the bill, concerned groups launched an online signature drive called ‘Tayo na para sa FOI.’ The groups behind the petition plan to submit a letter to President Aquino and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte before the State of the Nation Address in July.

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