Press Release
June 10, 2012

Higher fees to hurt ordinary folks
Waiving NEDA OK of gov't fees against 'spirit' of transparency

Sen. Ralph G. Recto yesterday said placing the sole discretion of increasing fees imposed by government agencies in the hands of cabinet secretaries runs counter to the spirit of check and balance in government.

"If the Department of Finance (DOF) will have its way, every agency or bureau will increase at will its fees and charges to the detriment of the transacting public," Recto, Senate ways and means chair, said.

He said ordinary folks applying for an NBI clearance, passport and other government permits and licenses would be affected by wanton increases in fess and charges.

Recto said lifting prior approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in fee hikes of agencies and bureaus would be "a minus to the national campaign to make public officials accountable and all transactions transparent."

"The proponents said the process of going through the NEDA approval is cumbersome and, by extension breeds inefficiency. But I say it's not always a question of expediency but also about transparency," Recto, a former NEDA chief, stressed.

"With waivers being signed and flaunted left and right, I don't think the oversight function of NEDA on government fees must be waived also," he added.

NEDA's power to review and approve proposed increase in fees and charges is embodied in Memorandum Circular 137 and was likewise re-affirmed in NEDA Circular Nos. 01-2007, 01-2008 and 01-2010.

Recto said he understands the need of government agencies and bureaus to increase their fees and charges to reflect current realities but the exclusive power to be given to cabinet secretaries might breed more problems than answers.

"I can personally vouch on the probity and integrity of our cabinet officials. But sometimes you have to tightly guard the bureaucratic gates to drive away possible agitators from hell," he said.

Recto said among the reasons why the NEDA was given authority to go over hike proposals of government agencies is to ensure that no fee adjustment will cause injury to the public and that fees are commensurate to the service rendered.

"We might have a situation that even inefficient agencies dishing out sloppy services will reward itself with annual increment in fees," he said.

The senator nevertheless said if NEDA feels that it is already flooded with oversight work, Malacanang could revert to the task force on fees and charges or assign another review body in lieu of the socio-economic planning agency.

The proposal to skirt NEDA's approval was made by the Department of Finance (DOF), citing the present process of seeking NEDA approval as "cumbersome."

The DOF said that allowing the respective Cabinet secretaries to raise fees and charges would enable the departments to run their operations more efficiently.

The fees of some agencies have not been adjusted since the 1970s.

From January to April, fees and charges slapped by different state agencies helped raise P32.434 billion in revenues, 11.7 percent higher than the P29.035 billion generated in the same period last year.

In April alone, revenues from these state offices amounted to P7.793 billion, which was 24.6 percent higher than last year's P6.255 billion.

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