Stop publishing annual audit reports? Castro tells Martires that’s even worse
MANILA, Philippines — ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro has claimed that Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ clarification — that he is actually seeking for the non-publication of annual audit reports (AARs) — appears to be worse than his original statement, saying media workers and anti-corruption watchdogs rely on this.
Castro said on Wednesday that she was shocked by Martires’ clarification — that he is referring to the Commission on Audit (COA) AARs and not the audit observation memorandum (AOM) itself — as scrutiny of AARs has led to huge discoveries of alleged corruption.
“This is even worse than his initial statement when he said that the COA should not publish its Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM). The AARs are normally used by media, non-government organizations, and other corruption watchdogs to see if indeed government agencies and officials are using taxpayer’s money judiciously and are not enriching themselves,” Castro said.
“In fact many anomalies in government were exposed due to the COA AARs like that of the Pharmally scam, the DepEd laptop overpricing, and even the P125 million unauthorized OVP confidential fund,” she added.
Castro was referring to the controversy surrounding Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, the company tapped by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) to provide face masks, face shields, and other protective materials for the Department of Health (DOH), at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COA’s audit report for fiscal year 2020, released last August 11, showed that there were deficiencies on how DOH managed its P67.32-billion fund to fight COVID-19, adding that it contributed to challenges that the country faced during the crisis.
It was eventually revealed that P42 billion of the P67.32 billion funds were transferred to PS-DBM. Of the P42 billion, at least P8.7 billion went to Pharmally despite the company have a small paid-up capital of P625,000.
Earlier, Martires said that he wrongly mentioned AOM in his suggestion to Congress last Monday — to remove provisions on the annual budget or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) that require the publication of AOM.
According to him, publishing initial audit observations has led to people accusing government officials of wrongdoing when the issues mentioned by the COA can still be rectified.
According to a COA document from 2009, the AOM is a “written notification to the agency head and concerned officers” meant to inform the specific office that an audit of their books showed “deficiencies noted in the audit of accounts, operations or transactions and requiring comments thereto, and/or submission of documentary and other information within a reasonable period”.
Meanwhile, an AAR is the final output of the regular yearly audit conducted by a COA auditor assigned to audit the accounts of an agency. However, an AAR is not a final report from COA, as agencies can dispute observations or comply with them eventually.
Castro then reminded Martires that COA is mandated to publish the AAR under the 1987 Constitution, under Article IX-D, Section 4 which states that COA must submit an annual report to the President and the Congress.
“Ano ba naman yan pati ba audit report gustong gawing confidential? […] These should be upheld and transparency is for the best of our people,” she noted.