Senate panel fails to approve COA budget for 2014

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Sen. Francis Escudero INQUIRER PHOTO/DELFIN T. MALLARI JR./INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit on Tuesday failed to get the approval of its proposed P8.4 billion budget for 2014 of a Senate panel pending questions from members of the minority bloc.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the committee on finance, suspended deliberations because some members of the minority group reserved their right to ask questions on the agency.

The minority bloc in the Senate is composed of its leader, Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile and Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Nancy Binay and Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.

Enrile, Estrada and Honasan were mentioned  in a special  audit of the COA  as among the legislators who  had allegedly funnelled their priority development assistance fund (PDAF)  or pork barrel funds to non-government organizations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the disbursement of these funds to bogus NGOs.

But Escudero said he would  no longer give any “special meaning” to  his colleagues’  desire to question the budget of the COA.

“Some members of the minority informed the chair that they have questions which I will not give any special meaning to anymore. It is their right as members to ask questions to any agency,” He told reporters after suspending the deliberations.

Binay attended and raised questions during the hearing.

Escudero himself also scrutinized COA’s proposed budget as well as the agency’s functions.

“Who audits COA?” he asked COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza, who was present at the hearing.

“We have our own auditor. And as I mentioned a while ago our, own auditor issues audit observations to us,” Mendoza said.

“But your audit reports to you too. The auditiors are under you? Where’s the check and balance…?” Escudero asked again.

Mendoza explained that the issues audit observations sometimes addressed to assistant commissioners, directors and  heads  of agencies.

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