Solon says COA audit reports likely to be taken up in budget hearings
MANILA, Philippines — The recently released Commission on Audit (COA) reports on various government agencies’ dispensation of its funds will highly likely be discussed when Congress tackles the proposed 2022 budget, the House committee on appropriations chair said.
During a briefing after Congress formally received copies of the P5.024 trillion proposed national budget for 2022 on Monday, ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap said that even if there is an ongoing hearing at the committee on public accounts, the COA reports would be brought up by some lawmakers.
And if such happens, agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) whose transactions were flagged should be able to respond properly or run the risk of their budget being rejected.
“Kasi ngayon, meron ‘yang (hearing) sa public accounts, dinidinig po ‘yan, pero ganunpaman, lalabas at lalabas po ‘yan sa budget deliberations,” Yap told reporters.
(Now actually, we have hearings at the committee on public accounts, but still, we expect these issues to show up here at the budget deliberations.)
“And sa DOH ‘yong ibang mga na-flag ng COA, they should be ready to answer ‘yong mga questions po ng congressman dahil kung hindi po nila masasagot ‘to, mahihirapan po silang ipasa ‘yong kanilang budget,” he added.
(And for DOH which was recently flagged by COA, they should be ready to answer the questions of lawmakers because if they cannot answer, they may find it hard to get their budget approved.)
Recently, DOH drew flak after COA’s audit report for 2020 showed that P67.32 of their COVID-19 funds contained deficiencies caused by non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations.
These issues, COA said, cast doubt on the regularity of transactions, while leading to missed opportunities for the department primarily tasked with managing the pandemic.
But it is not only DOH which has suffered public scrutiny due to COA’s audit reports: during the previous week, 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.
Yap said that these issues would be unearthed as public funds are at stake.
“Dahil talagang bubusisiin natin ‘to dahil pera ng bayan ‘to, so hindi pwede basta-basta na lang nila kung saan gagamitin po,” he explained.
(This is because this is taxpayer’s money, so we cannot just allow them to allocate it to whatever project they want.)
In addition to COA audit reports, Yap said he expects that even the usage of funds allocated by the two Bayanihan laws — Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and R.A. No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act — would be up for scrutiny.
He also singled out the funds for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the government’s anti-insurgency program which some lawmakers from both the House and the Senate prefer set aside and allocated to the COVID-19 response instead.
“‘Yong mga involved ‘don sa mga Bayanihan budget na agencies, actually sila po eh, tulad ng DSWD, DOH, and syempre nandya-dyan na ‘yong mga ELCAC natin kung saan ‘yong mga ibang kasamahan natin sa Kongreso eh talagang tatanungin din kung bakit,” he added.
(Agencies involved in the Bayanihan budgets would be pressed for answers — actually the same cast — there’s DSWD, DOH, and of course the (NTF-) ELCAC which some of our colleagues in Congress would really ask why there is funding for their projects.)
The House earlier received copies of the P5.024 trillion proposed national budget from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), signaling the start of the budget season
DBM said in a briefer about the budget that a huge portion of the budget would be allocated to social services, amounting to P1.922 trillion or 38.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Economic services would get P1.474 trillion or 29.3 percent of the GDP.
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