Sat. Sep 25th, 2021
Even the country’s best dentists will refuse to take this job.

By Ado Paglinawan

Part 3 of 3: Creative legislation can save the day, instead of bickerings

Lawyers like the President can always resort to jurisprudence.

But truth to tell, COA has no prosecutor powers. Its is the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice that must pick up where COA’s buck stops, and proceed with any needed prosecution.

This situation is actually the tail-end effect of Corazon Aquino’s collapsing of the pre-audit powers of COA that as per her discernment at that time was dictatorial on the part of COA and a super-producer of gridlock to development projects.

Pre-Edsa, bureaucracy ruled over creative governance. The weight of a country moving forward was sacrificed in favor of discussions of what was to be disallowed not on what could be allowed.

As we speak, it has become rather obvious that the condition-reflex of government of government officials today has swayed to the other extreme of the pendulum. Post-audit has encouraged lack of strict observance of accountancy standards on the use of government money because no commensurate deterrence is provided by prosecution of auditing offenses. The crooks after enjoying the powers and privileges that came with their appointments to government, have been laughing all the way to the bank as their tenure ended.

Well more than 30 years of post-Edsa from Mrs. Aquino to Duterte, ache for creative legislation to move this question forward, instead of backwards.

Improvement of the System

Conchita Carpio-Morales tried to solve the problem with a Memorandum of Agreement between COA and the Ombudsman’s office. But her Office of Special Prosecution abused their discretion and started filing cases, even before the given periods allotted to government agencies to cure their deficiencies would elapsed. The case became celebrated when the court dismissed charges against Caloocan officials for violation of due process.


So, her replacement Samuel Martires deactivated the MOA.


Instead of a mere MOA, I propose the legislation of a mechanism that will automatically submit to the Ombudsman, audits by COA, for yellow flagging to encourage expedition of compliance completion.


Agencies should not onion-skinned if any deficiency on their part is exposed to public knowledge. What do the agencies expect? That their deficiencies be covered up. This is insane. The agencies are expected to do their work on time.


And even when they are yellow flagged, it is understood that the presumptions of innocence and regularity are in their favor, because due process has not yet expired.


If the agency involved totally fails liquidation, and the COA en banc disallows the deficiencies with finality, a red flag goes up and a dedicated arm of the Ombudsman sets off investigations with a court-filing deadline of not more than 90 days.


Instead of bullying COA, this should be the President’s posture.


After flip-flopping from belligerent instructions to his Secretary of Health, “Huwag mong sundin ‘yang COA, p**anginang COA-COA na yan” (Don’t follow COA) to a sympathetic middle ground “Alam ko walang malisya (I know there’s no malice). You are just doing your duty,” Duterte appears to be mellowing when he suggested that the government auditors put disclaimers to their reports.


From a canine barking “I will stand by Duque even if it will bring me down”, the President now sounds like a pussycat meowing “If Duque offers to resign voluntarily, I will accept it”.


The COA has been granted by the Constitution unequivocal fiscal autonomy precisely because its functions cannot be politicized or influenced by other branches of government, including the Executive Arm. Further, the Constitution made it clear that no entities within the government can escape the scrutiny of COA.

Duterte can still win points here.

Are we stopping endemic graft and corruption, or aren’t we? Are we stopping corruption, as he had boasted, at the mere whiff, or are we trapped into just chasing erring government officials with their loot in tow?

COA’s list in its 2020 Annual Report reached nearly every corner of Duterte bureaucracy and beyond, with the string of reports available to the public on the COA website. This has prompted a flood of comments from netizens commending the audit agency.

According to COA, this is a list of departments and agencies with deficiencies from 2020 to 2021. Read and weep.

Department of Health (DOH)

P67.32 Billion unused Covid-19 funds

P24.64 Billion un-obligated allotments

P1.26 Billion aggregate amount of procured equipment, undelivered, unutilized, and/or without calibration and preventive maintenance

P2.83 Billion infrastructure projects, either idle, unutilized or with substantial delay in implementation

P3.97 Billion various contracts and projects with procedural deficiencies in procurement process and lack of documentation, resulting in doubtful payment transactions and significant delays

P557.67 Million total disbursements non-compliant with established rules, resulting in irregular unnecessary and expensive expenditures

P441.24 Million unauthorized and unnecessary balances in depository accounts as well as fees and other receipts or revenues collected remain unremitted to the National Treasury

P306.73 Million non-obligated for DRRM during state of calamity or national emergency

P95.68 Million value of drugs, medicines and other type of inventories found to be nearly expired or have expired

P65.36 Million deficiencies in the distribution of centrally-procured assets 

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) – P15 Billion ‘stolen funds’, P6.9 Billion disallowances, P1 Billion overpayments

Department of Health (DOH)

P67.32 Billion unused Covid-19 funds

P24.64 Billion un-obligated allotments

P1.26 Billion aggregate amount of procured equipment, undelivered, unutilized, and/or without calibration and preventive maintenance

P2.83 Billion infrastructure projects, either idle, unutilized or with substantial delay in implementation

P3.97 Billion various contracts and projects with procedural deficiencies in procurement process and lack of documentation, resulting in doubtful payment transactions and significant delays

P557.67 Million total disbursements non-compliant with established rules, resulting in irregular unnecessary and expensive expenditures

P441.24 Million unauthorized and unnecessary balances in depository accounts as well as fees and other receipts or revenues collected remain unremitted to the National Treasury

P306.73 Million non-obligated for DRRM during state of calamity or national emergency

P95.68 Million value of drugs, medicines and other type of inventories found to be nearly expired or have expired

P65.36 Million deficiencies in the distribution of centrally-procured assets 

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) – P15 Billion ‘stolen funds’, P6.9 Billion disallowances, P1 Billion overpayments


From how he sounds, Secretary Francisco Duque III makes it appear that the country owes him a debt of gratitude that we should wait for him to make good his duty to liquidate. Duh? He’d better hurry because by his sheer weight, the President might get his wish: “I will stand by Duque even if it brings me down!”

Office of the President – flagged for allowing several government officials to travel abroad even if the requests were made less than 10 days before the scheduled departures.

Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) – flagged for COVID-19 response expenditures

Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) – P148 Million uncollected obligations from gaming and business firms at the Cagayan Freeport

Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) – P154.2 Million payout to gov’t broadcaster/s without contract

National Library – questionable 50 aircon units

Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – P3.16 Billion worth of flood control and infrastructure delayed or incomplete projects

Department of Transportation (DOTr) – P2.1 Billion undelivered license plates

Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) – P8.51 Billion sports facilities project for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, prejudicial to the interest of the government

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) – P5 Billion unused funds (only 1% or P59 Million was used for the Service Contracting Program)

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) – P1.3 Billion unfinished projects and for not imposing sanctions on their contractors, P230 Million in purchases

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) – P2.4 Million irregular and unauthorized medical allowances

Department of Education (DepEd) – P8.13 Billion non-submission of required documents for Covid-19 funds

Commission for Higher Education (CHED) – P3.3 Billion allocated under the Bayanihan2, underutilized (only using 40.61% of the fund)

Department of Trade and Industry

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) – P2.1 Billion Special Employment Training Program (STEP) resulting in poor outcome

Department of Science and Technology (DOST)’s Science Education Institute (SEI) – P1.7 Billion unused scholarship funds that were not remitted to the Bureau of Treasury

Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) – P2.2 Million worth of overpaid allowances to work-from-home staff

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) – P5 Billion unutilized funds (used only P1.2 Billion out of its P6.2 Billion fund)

National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) – P2.1 Million purchasing 44 smartphones, COA calls it excessive

Department of Agriculture (DA) – P2.1 Billion worth of official development assistance (ODA) or foreign aid (delayed implementation of rural infrastructure projects)

National Irrigation Administration (NIA) – P19.98 Billion irrigation contracts awarded to ineligible contractors

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – P1.81 Billion unauthorized bank accounts

National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) – P521.73 Million unfinished projects

Office of Civil Defense (OCD) – P442.23 Million questionable payments for goods and services in its COVID-19 response

National Task Force to End Local Communist Insurgency (NTF-ELCAC) – P5 Million worth of funds coursed through the Central Mindanao office (flagged for multiple deficiencies including an undocumented transfer of budget to 40 barangays)

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) – P431.93 Million (184 projects exceeding the approved budget)

Department of Finance

Bureau of Customs (BOC) – P394 Million worth of goods processed without required permits and licenses

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) – P1.57 Billion unliquidated cash advances which are at possible risk of misuse

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – P780 Million unutilized ayuda funds

Indigenous Peoples Commission – P4.8 Million expenses for pricey hotels and restaurants

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) – P419.94 Million National ID info campaign, P71 Million in massive and unrestricted hiring of contractual workers (unnecessary expenses)

Department of Tourism (DOT) – P39.6 Million in uncorrected misstatements DOT’s audit (P3.9 Million remained uncorrected as of year-end 2020)

Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) – P28.7 Million rental fees and other charges from aquaculture operators in Laguna de Bay

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) – P72 Million unliquidated fund transfers

Philippine National Police (PNP) – P1.69 Billion worth of unterminated contracts (equipment suppliers already failed to meet delivery timelines)

National Police Commission (Napolcom) – P25 Million unauthorized allowances of officials and staff

Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – P605.82 Million doubtful disbursements (COVID-19 pandemic response)

Baguio City Local Government (Mayor Benjamin Magalong) – flagged for lapses in COVID-19 fund use

Province of Samar (Governor Reynolds Michael Tan) – P40 Million lapsed aid payment to over 38,000 pandemic frontliners in 2020

Mandaue City Local Government (Mayor Jonas Cortes) – P34.9 Million SAP funds released to ineligible beneficiaries

Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) – P12.8 Million discrepancies on the Runway Overlay Project

39 Towns and Cities in Cebu Province – P120 Million ayuda funds to ineligible beneficiaries

Ilocos Sur Provincial Government (Governor Ryan Luis Singson) – P863 Million questionable disbursements

Davao City Local Government (Mayor Inday Sara Duterte) – P9.48 Billion questionable assets, P1.32 Billion questioned legality of Covid procurements

Ormoc City Local Government (Mayor Richard Gomez) – P3.33 Million worth of sacks of rice still unaccounted (total of 1,526 sacks)

Ilocos Norte Provincial Government (Governor Matthew Manotoc) – P7.49 Million to pay contractual consultants that were deemed unnecessary and redundant

Commission on Elections (Comelec) – P2.6 Billion unliquidated cash advances

House of Representatives (Batasang Pambansa) – flagged for over 30 unrecorded artworks in its book of assets

Alright, Mr. President, your suggestion to COA that disclaimers be included in its report is well taken. But I think what is better is for you to call the heads of these government agencies to Malacanang, telling them you are supporting COA here and so they better shape up or ship out.

That will make Heidi Mendoza and the rank and filer of COA even more resolved to dedicate their lives to watching every penny of the government go to the right places.

How do you think these ordinary civil servants feel when they see crooks in government get away with millions perhaps billions, while they report weekdays from 8 to 5, receiving only hard-earned and honest salaries?

To be concluded with a Part 4 on Thursday, September 3.

A Facebook meme showing “unkindly” remarks coming from President Duterte about the Commission on Audit. It would best for the country if this stops and instead, Malacanang, COA and the Ombudsman put their heads together seeking solutions through creative legislation as suggested by this column.
 

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