Brosas urges COA to release findings on OVP’s 2022 secret funds
MANILA, Philippines — Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas on Tuesday called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to deliver on its commitment to complete its audit of the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) P125 million in confidential funds in 2022.
In a statement, Brosas, a Gabriela party-list representative, reminded the COA of its promise to finish the audit by today (Nov. 15). The agency made that commitment during plenary debates in late September on House Bill No. 8980, or the 2024 General Appropriations Bill.
It was during the plenary debates that the COA confirmed the OVP spent the P125 million in just 11 days.
Through its budget sponsor, Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, who is senior vice chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, the COA corrected Brosas and other Makabayan bloc lawmakers who had earlier reported that the money, transferred from the Office of the President’s contingent funds, was spent in 19 days.
Brosas replied: “It’s hard to comprehend that if that is for surveillance, how many reward payments have been made to spend P11 million per day… Did the OVP submit a liquidation report to the Office of the President, president of the Senate, and speaker of the House?”
Quimbo replied that the liquidation report was submitted by the OVP on Jan. 17, 2023, and that the COA was doing an audit of such expenses and had committed to finish its audit of the P125 million by Nov. 15.
Call for transparency
Brosas said: “We believe that the Filipino people have the right to know how public funds are being utilized, especially when it involves significant amounts such as the OVP’s P125-million corruption-prone confidential funds transferred from the Office of the President and spent within just 11 days in 2022.”
She stressed that it was also “crucial that the full audit report of all government agencies be made available to the public.”
“We need transparency and accountability in the handling of public funds to ensure that they are used for their intended purpose and not for personal gain,” Brosas added.
The lawmaker noted that the issue of confidential and intelligence funds has been rightfully criticized by the public because the funds are not subject to genuine audit and public scrutiny which, she pointed out, created a loophole allowing those handling them to evade accountability.
“We urge the government to address this issue and ensure the responsible utilization of public funds. It is crucial that confidential funds undergo the same audit procedures implemented in any other government expenses,” Brosas said.
Mounting opposition among lawmakers to the granting of confidential and intelligence funds to civilian agencies eventually led to the realignment of these allocations mainly to agencies involved in protecting the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea, such as the Philippine Coast Guard.
The biggest was Vice President Sara Duterte’s proposed budget of P650 million in confidential funds for 2024 — P500 million for the OVP and P150 million for the Department of Education (DepEd) which she heads as concurrent secretary.