Palace urges COA, DOJ to sue agencies in wasteful projects
Malacañang has urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to recommend charges against a number of agencies in connection with wasteful government projects in 2017.
The Palace does not see the need to investigate Sen. Ping Lacson’s exposé that the government had lost P583 billion on suspended or shelved projects of the agencies due to irregularities, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Friday.
“It’s the duty of the COA to recommend the filing of charges, and then the Department of Justice (DOJ) will have to take over,” Panelo said.
Malacañang need not conduct an investigation, according to him, because the COA had done its job to look into the matter.
“It doesn’t have to do that, because precisely the COA finds something irregular, then its duty is to recommend the filing of charges. It is also the duty of the DOJ to do the same. File it,” Panelo said.
Lacson on Thursday disclosed that as of December 2017, the COA had suspended government transactions worth P402.8 billion, disallowed projects worth P20 billion and issued notices to other projects worth P160.7 billion under litigation or “charged.”
Customs, other agencies
The government projects were suspended, stopped or under litigation as these were found to be irregular, unnecessary or extravagant.
Among the agencies taken to task by the COA were the Bureau of Customs, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, Armed Forces of the Philippines’ general headquarters, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Education, and the Department of Transportation.
Sought for comment, Panelo said some projects might have been discontinued due to legal issues, but this did not mean these were wasteful projects.
“The projects were stopped because there is a legal issue involved, maybe someone filed a case, like the losing bidder filing a case so it was stopped. It doesn’t mean that it was wasted, it was just stopped for now,” he said.
Pressed on whether the President would talk to the heads of the agencies being questioned, Panelo said it was not President Rodrigo Duterte’s style to do so.
“The President’s style has always been, ‘It’s up to you. But if you botch it, you will be accountable to me,’” he added.
Sotto backs Lacson
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would back up Lacson on his revelations.
Following Lacson’s disclosure, Sen. Sonny Angara said there would definitely be closer scrutiny of the projects in the proposed P3.8-trillion budget for 2019.
The Senate has yet to complete interpellation on the spending bill and is expected to resume it in January.
“We will closely study the budget and see which form of spending would help the people and generate jobs,” Angara said in a radio interview.
According to him, he was very concerned about Lacson’s revelations because as chair of the ways and means committee, he was in charge of looking for sources to fund government programs.
“For us, it’s very difficult to raise money. The reform should not just be on how to raise funds, but on how these are spent,” Angara said.
“This is why we appreciate the efforts of Senator Ping to point out anything wasteful in government. And definitely, these should not be repeated,” he added.
Angara said one example of a useful project was an airport because it would boost the tourism industry.
But breaking up a road in good condition only to repair it again is wasteful spending, he said.
Reacting to Lacson’s revelation, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, De La Salle University College of Law founding dean, said the P583.5 billion could have been used to fund the severely understaffed and underfunded judiciary.
The amount “could have also been used for safety nets to protect our people from the effects of TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion),” said Diokno, a senatorial candidate.
“I echo the frustration of Senator Lacson. It saddens me to see so much of our people’s money squandered by a government that is supposed to serve them,” he said.
Diokno said that while life was getting harder, the administration remained ineffective and out of touch. “This is injustice. Those responsible should be held to account.” —Reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Leila B. Salaverria
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