COA commits to continue audit duties despite complaints from Duque, Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) is committed to performing and publishing audits of government agencies despite criticism from President Rodrigo Duterte and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo made the assurance to a House panel’s hearing Tuesday on the audit reports concerning the Department of Health (DOH), which is recently drawing flak due to COA’s findings.
The audit report released last Wednesday revealed deficiencies worth P67.32 billion in the COVID-19 funds managed by DOH.
“We understand the concern of the President, but of course, to begin with, you know we do not flag; we observe and recommend. The flagging is actually a term used by media, pero kami hindi nag-flag. Because some of our observations are actually positive, hindi naman pina-flash yong positive,” Aguinaldo said.
“So ayon, pero so far as the work of the Commission on Audit, tuloy pa rin kami, we have a constitutional mandate, we have to comply with that, you know I do have a force of about 9,000 people in COA who are very dedicated, very professional, and you know who are committed to do the work that they do,” he added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate asked Aguinaldo whether they would continue doing their reports and publishing it — an act mandated by the 1987 Constitution and every General Appropriations Act (GAA) — with Duterte being furious with the COA.
During his late-night briefing on Monday, Duterte asked COA to stop flagging agencies and refrain from publishing their reports as it taints agencies with “corruption by perception.”
“Stop that flagging, goddamnit. You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person you are flagging,” Duterte said.
“What you are doing is flogging. Striking. Please don’t. You keep on flagging, but then nobody gets jailed, nobody at all. When you flag, there is already a taint of corruption by perception,” he added.
Duterte then defended Duque and DOH from the rumors, claiming it is impossible to steal P67.3 billion worth of public funds.
However, the COA report neither mentioned that the funds were missing nor stolen, as it merely stated that the funds managed by DOH for the COVID-19 response had deficiencies worth P67.3 billion.
During the early part of the same hearing, Duque ranted against COA for trampling on the dignity of the DOH, daring them to do his job amid a COVID-19 pandemic.
Aguinaldo dissuaded fears that there is a concerted effort against the government, as the audit reports are required to be published and uploaded on their website.
“But we’d like to assure the public that there’s no concerted effort whatsoever. Our reports are published on our website as required by law, in fact you also find that requirement in the GAA,” he said.
“So every year, it’s continually reproduced, we are required to publish reports on the website with very, very few exceptions, and as you mention hindi po kami nagpre-press release ng findings namin,” he added.
COA’s audit report of DOH showed that the deficiencies which were caused by non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations have led to missed opportunities while contributing to challenges that the country faced during the crisis,
In the report, Duque was asked by COA to implement various recommendations should be implemented to avoid similar issues in the future.
The recommendations centered on reminding and directing unit heads to act urgently in utilizing funds allocated to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, while instructing the administration and financial team to closely coordinate and “conduct regular/periodic assessment” on the utilization of COVID-19 funds.
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