COA flags DOT’s P6.7-M expenses for gift checks, hotel accommodations
MANILA, Philippines — State auditors have flagged the Department of Tourism (DOT) for spending some P6.67 million in extravagant expenses for gift checks given to private individuals, official activities at a posh resort, hotel accommodations, and bonuses.
The Commission on Audit (COA) tagged the DOT’s central office and seven regional offices for spending P6,678,878.07 in taxpayers’ money in 2019 for activities that were “irregular, unnecessary, excessive and extravagant.”
Reacting to the audit report, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat took note of the COA findings and reminded all DOT offices to strictly comply with pertinent accounting and auditing rules and regulations.
“It is to be noted though that more than 50 percent of the subject expenditures were incurred before my stint as DOT secretary,” Puyat said in a text message, adding that the P3.579-million disbursement for gift checks was “before my time.”
She added: “As for the rest of the expenditures under question, we have advised the offices concerned to comply with the documentation required and to provide the justifications necessary to substantiate their expenses and to avoid disallowance by the COA.”
In its report, the COA said the agency’s central office spent P3.579 million for gift checks that were “allegedly distributed to tourism private persons,” but there was no proof that the gift checks were actually distributed and remains unliquidated as of 2019.
The DOT’s Central Visayas office also was also called out for paying P1.203 million for the salaries and wages of job order employees from May to June 2019 but the disbursements were not certified nor approved in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1445, or the Government Auditing Code.
The Davao regional tourism office was also called out for spending P349,900 to rent Island Buenavista, an exclusive resort in the Island Garden City of Samal, for a “Year-End Assessment and Strategic Planning” of 14 employees.
The report added that meals served at the Pearl Farm for 10 persons and Lola Restaurant for 20 persons in December 2019 were also included although the meals were not related to the activity, and that “tokens” were also given to the participants.
The DOT’s Caraga regional office was also flagged for spending P334,413.34 for “unnecessary plane fares” of speakers and lecturers from Manila, who conducted training activities from August 2018 to July 2019, that could have been conducted by qualified personnel in the Caraga region.
Extravagance was also the issue auditors made for DOT’s Cordillera regional office, which spent P296,067.23 for “extravagant training expenses.”
The tourism central office and regional offices in the Cordilleras, Mimaropa and Central Visayas were also flagged for “excessive” accommodation expenses during official travels, costing taxpayers P277,932.54.
Moreover, the central office and Zamboanga regional office spent P215,749.12 in “unnecessary” training activities for job order employees who were hired for specific tasks specifically for their supposed expertise.
Similarly, the COA scored the Western Visayas regional office for spending P108,273.30 for the unauthorized midyear bonus.
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