Despite COA stand, Eleazar says it’s better to stop sharing audit reports to media
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar believes that it might be better for the Commission on Audit (COA) to “revert” to old ways — when audit reports were not released to the media for reportage.
During Wednesday’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Eleazar made the comment in light of the recent deluge of COA reports that have allegedly tainted the reputation of various government agencies, especially the beleaguered Department of Health (DOH).
This also came a day after COA itself clarified that they are not making any press releases of audit reports; rather, such documents are made available on their website in compliance with existing laws.
“Recently napansin namin na talagang lumalabas sa media, at well we can say na talagang kapag lumabas ‘yon, even though the intention of the COA is napakaganda, pero ‘pag isinulat na po kasi ‘yan — hindi naman po natin masisi ang ating mga kasamahan sa media — pero kapag nasulat na para bang nagkasala na ang ating mga ahensya,” Eleazar said.
(Recently we have observed that it really comes out in media outlets, and well we can say that if it really comes out, even though the intention of the COA is very good, but if you write it down in a story — we cannot blame our peers in the media — but if it is written down it seems the agencies already committed a sin.)
“Kaya nga lang, pinaka-maganda sana, ‘wag na lang sanang ipa-media, kagaya no’ng dating sitwasyon noon na dere-deretso lang sa amin,” he added.
(But still, we think it would be best if we no longer have it aired to the media, like the previous situation where the reports would go straight to us.)
DOH is currently drawing flak after COA’s audit report for 2020 revealed that P67.32 billion of the department’s COVID-19 fund had deficiencies, which were caused by non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations.
The deficiencies, COA said, led to missed opportunities for the department primarily tasked with managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo stressed that their reports are not released to the media as it is merely being uploaded to their website. He also clarified that they have released less than 10 press releases under his term, with the statements mostly meant to clear terms or avoid misinterpretation.
But it is not only DOH that has suffered public scrutiny due to COA’s audit reports: on Tuesday, an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) deputy administrator was asked by the commission to explain why sanitary napkins and other hygiene and medical items were purchased from a construction firm.
Then in a Consolidated Management Letter, COA doubted whether the winning bidder tapped by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) can actually deliver laptops and other gadgets, given that it is also a construction firm.
During a House panel hearing on COA’s audit report of DOH, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III turned emotional while lamenting how the reports have influenced public perception of the department.
Eleazar said that he cannot blame Duque for his outburst. However, he also noted that COA’s reports are regular and nothing new.
“‘Yon pong mga audit observation memo or itong AOM na tinatawag natin, ‘yon naman po ay hindi bago na, actually periodically kami po ay nakaka-receive n’yan galing sa aming mga resident COA (auditor) dito. The purpose of which is, kung may nakikita sila na observation along the way na makakapag-improve sa aming operation or kung papaano namin ginagamit itong pondo na inilaan sa amin, iniinform na kami hindi ‘yong bandang huli wala na kaming magawa,” he said.
(The audit observation memo or the AOMs, these are not new, actually we receive these notices periodically from our resident COA auditors. The purpose of which is, if they see observations that would greatly improve our operations or how we spend our funds allocated to us, we are informed rather than not being able to do anything.)
“At ‘yon po siguro ang sinasabi ng ating DOH, kahit sa PNP gano’n rin po ‘yon eh […] do’n sa presentation nagkakaroon po ng parang ang dating, napakalaki ng kasalanan ng ahensya while ang talagang intention naman talaga ng COA is para ma-guide kayo […] Ako po hindi ko masisi si Secretary Duque,” he added.
(Maybe that is what DOH would have wanted to say, even with the PNP that is the case, in the presentation it would appear that the agency committed a huge wrong already while the intention of the COA is really to guide agencies. That’s why I cannot really blame Secretary Duque.)
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.