COA: Some foreign trips of officials OK’d even if requests came less than 10 days before flight
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Office of the President (OP) for allowing several government officials to travel abroad even if the requests were made less than 10 days before the scheduled departures.
According to COA’s audit report of OP for 2019, the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for General Administration (ODESGA) allowed this practice, and in some cases, even less than the two-day period required for “extremely justifiable cases” in contrary to the Memorandum Circular No. 35, series of 2017.
Under Section 3 of the said memorandum issued by OP last November 2017, requests for foreign travel authority must be submitted to the Malacañang Records Office (MRO) at least 10 working days before the day of departure, and less than two days for extremely justifiable cases.
Out of the 365 requests that ODESGA received in 2019, COA scanned 49 for examination and observation. And from these 49 requests, at least 31 — or an astounding 63.26 percent — were deemed to have violated OP’s own memorandum.
In contrast, a complete turnaround of the foreign travel requests would take over seven days — which means that some trips may have been given travel authority after they have departed the country.
In one specific trip, the request for travel authority was submitted three days after the scheduled flight — March 18, 2019 — when in fact the trip was from March 15 to 29. The travel authority on the other hand was issued 185 days or over six months after.
“Consequent to the delayed receipt of the 31 requests for foreign travels authorities is the delayed release of travel orders, from day of departure to 185 days from the date of request. The delayed release of approved travel authority suspects the legality of foreign travels considering that travels pushed thru even without the approved travel authority,” COA said in their audit report.
“The Audit Team also noted that 4 cases of the 49 approved travel authorities were released to the concerned government officials on or 2 days after the scheduled date of travel departure despite their having submitted documents within the prescribed period of submission,” it added.
COA noted that the delayed approval of the travel authority led to delayed processing of travel advances — which in turn translated to higher plane fees and hotel accommodations.
“We recommended that Management require ODESGA to strictly adhere to the required number of days to submit request for travel authority, provided under Section 3 of MC No. 35, and late submission thereof shall not be entertained, unless otherwise fully justified,” COA noted.
In its response, OP noted that it cannot be faulted solely for such issues, because legality of foreign travel stems from the fulfillment of the criteria and not by the travel authority alone. More so, OP contends that the expensive plane tickets and accommodations were not the office’s fault.
“OP easily communicates the need to complete the requirements to the agencies, however, response of the requesting agency is not under the control of the OP; and (iv) That the processing should not be reckoned from the date the OP received a request, but from the time when the request was completed,” OP said in reply.
“The focus were on the dates of initial receipt of the requests, but not on their completeness; (ii) That the agencies revise their request in their entirety near the date of departure; and (iii) That the incurrence of the expensive plane fares and accommodation while regrettable, cannot be said to be a result of delay in processing attributable to OP,” it added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.