DOF agrees to return idle P33B from PITC – Drilon
The Department of Finance (DOF) has heeded calls from senators for the return of P33 billion in idle funds lodged with Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Thursday.
Drilon cited a letter from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III asking the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to endorse to President Duterte the issuance of a directive for the transfer of the PITC funds to the national treasury.
The Senate minority leader was delighted that the DOF “acted swiftly” on his exposé that as much as P33 billion was sitting idly in PITC accounts, held for various agencies, including P7.04 billion for the Philippine Army.
He said Dominguez called to inform him of the DOF response to his disclosure.
In a privilege speech on Tuesday, Drilon said P33 billion in public funds was “parked” in PITC’s accounts, enabling agencies to skirt laws on government budgeting.
On Wednesday, Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on President Duterte to issue an executive order for the return of the P33 billion to the national coffers. He said part of the money could be used for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
Responding for the Palace on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the funds could not just be diverted for other purposes, as PITC was holding these for government agencies.
If the funds are used for other purposes, the move could be a violation of the law, Roque told a news briefing.
PITC holds a lot of funds, but it continues to import agencies’ requests, he said.
Citing figures from PITC, Roque said the company had delivered and liquidated P627 million worth of projects, while outstanding projects amounted to P492.59 million.
Endorsement to Duterte
On Wednesday, however, Dominguez wrote to the DBM, requesting endorsement to President Duterte of an order for the return of the money to the national treasury.
The PITC, an agency overseen by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is the government’s procurement arm. It has been tasked with procuring COVID-19 vaccines for the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, the DTI said PITC returned to the national coffers in October more than P1 billion of P9 billion in unused funds it was holding for government agencies.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who is also chair of PITC, showed reporters on Viber a picture of a report that sought to resolve some of the red flags raised by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the funds held by the trading company.
Lopez did not send to reporters a full copy of the report, but the part that he showed said PITC returned to the treasury P1.23 billion on Oct. 30. The remaining P7.9 billion covered orders now under procurement or under implementation, the report said.
The report did not explain why it had taken this long to deal with the unused funds when the COA raised the same problem in its 2018 audit report on PITC and reiterated the question in its 2019 audit of the trading company. —WITH REPORTS FROM ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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