DICT warned to spend budget or face cuts

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Karlo Nograles
Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairman of the House appropriations committee. (PhilStar file)

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the House of Representatives’ appropriations committee warned the Department of Information and Communications Technology to scale up its spending or risk cuts as its budget is diverted to fund free tertiary education.

At the hearing for the agency’s budget, the DICT reported that of the P3.2 billion it was allotted for 2016 (P1.5 billion) and 2017 (P1.7 billion), only two percent has been “actually utilized.”

“That is a lot of money I can use for free tertiary education,” Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles said.

“Being a new department, napakalaki naman siguro ng binibigay namin sa inyo, tapos hindi naman maa-absorb. Iyong last year, hindi pa nauubos (we have given you a huge sum but you cannot absorb it. The money for last year hasn’t been used up) …There’s really a problem when it comes to your absorptive capacity,” Nograles said

DICT officials explained that they are still in the procurement phase for projects related to the delivery of free wi-fi in public places.

Of the P3.2 billion, they added that P583 million has been obligated to the establishment of 100,000 wi-fi sites all over the country by 2026.

“This budget we will utilize for the 100,000 wi-fi sites,” Secretary Rodolfo Salalima said. “Underutilization must also be measured vis a vis what we have accomplished so far.”

For 2018, new appropriations for the DICT and its attached agencies will amount to P6.87 billion.

In terms of growth rates, Nograles said the department will get the biggest increase, compared to its 2017 budget of P2.99 billion.

The Free Internet Wi-Fi Connectivity in Public Places project will receive P1.7 billion under the proposed 2018 budget.

The National Telecommunications Commission will get P453.5 million; National Privacy Commission will get P150.8 million; and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center will get P19.7 million.