No more secret funds, instead DICT gets £280m ‘flat budget’ – Poe

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of a confidential fund, the Senate has decided to give the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) a budget item of P280 million next year.

This was revealed early Tuesday morning in the Senate when Senate Minority Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III asked about the DICT’s proposed P300 million confidential fund for 2024.

“They initially requested this confidential fund and actually made a pretty strong case for it,” said Senator Grace Poe, DICT budget sponsor.

“But the committee has managed to find a way for us to still be able to meet the needs of the DICT so that they can perform their functions properly, but now under a line budget item, so we will be more easily able to monitor how it is implemented,” Poe said, referring to the Senate committee finances.

Poe said the finance panel “was able to return £280 million” of the proposed £300 million confidential fund to the DICT.

Below is a breakdown of the new budget line item calculated by Poe:

  • For Components, Networks, Detection and Response called NDRs: P72.3 million
  • For operating software security: P48.2 million
  • For advanced antivirus systems: P79.7 million
  • For 24/7 staff monitoring the National Security Operations Center: P19.8 million
  • For vulnerability assessment and penetration testing tools: P20 million
  • Mobile Security Operations Center consists of portable hardware and software: P40 million

“So, when the COA (Commission on Audit) conducts an audit, they will be able to indicate what functions the purchased equipment performs. That’s why we made it a line item,” Poe explained.

The senator stressed that there was not a single peso left for the confidential DICT fund.

“Don’t use a confidential fund at all. We did not set a budget for this item because we did not see such a need,” the senator said.

Senators had earlier unanimously agreed to remove controversial confidential funds from government agencies performing civilian functions, including the DICT, the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education (DepEd), following criticism from various sectors.

Vice President Sara Duterte also serves as DepEd secretary.

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