COA calls out OSG over office rentals

COA calls out OSG over office rentals

/ 05:44 AM April 27, 2024

Gamaliel Cordoba

Commission on Audit chairperson Atty. Gamaliel Cordoba —SENATE PRIB

State auditors have flagged the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) “enormous” expenses that ballooned to around P488 million in the last 16 years for the lease and repair of its two office and parking spaces in Makati City.

Based on the Commission on Audit (COA)’s 2023 annual audit report on the OSG, the amount was for the payment of “rent, utility expenses, corresponding repairs and renovations of leased office spaces and parking slots from 2007 to 2023.”


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The period covered the terms of four presidents, including President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and seven solicitors general, including incumbent Menardo Guevarra.

The OSG has three offices on Amorsolo Street in the country’s financial district: One is its own acquired property that serves as its headquarters, while two other separate office spaces nearby, at the Montepino and APMC buildings, are leased properties.

The COA, chaired by lawyer Gamaliel Cordoba, noted that expenditures from these leased office spaces “could have been earmarked and used for other needed capitalization.”

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“Renting is a short-term solution with no long-term gains in terms of allocating scarce resources,” the audit report said.

The COA went on to recommend, which it said the OSG management agreed, the implementation of a relocation plan and the drafting of a budget proposal for the construction of a new building.


Collapse risk

“[The new office] will be more beneficial and economical to the agency than leasing or renting an office space,” it said.

The COA cited Presidential Decree No. 1445 stating that government resources shall be managed and “safeguarded against loss or wastage … with a view to ensuring efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the operations of the government.”

It also pointed to a 2016 joint circular between the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) rationalizing the rehabilitation, construction and acquisition of public office buildings.

Under the circular, agencies with existing building and lot, should repair or completely demolish its building to make way for the construction of a new office space, “provided [it] is highly recommended by the DPWH considering factors, such as degree of structural defect, building standards and higher cost of rehabilitation.”

In multiple inspections through the years, the main building was found with cracks and at risk of collapsing, with the “volumetric paper documents significantly contribut[ing] to the overloading … and fatigue to its structure.”

Based on information gathered by the state auditors, the OSG bought its main office, a 10-story building, in 1982. The structure was initially designed as a residential condominium and was just repurposed as an office space.

‘Budgetary constraints’

But the increase in personnel forced it to lease additional office and parking spaces. As of last year, 336 employees were assigned to the leased Montepino and APMC buildings.

While it “understood the rationale behind the agency’s decision to lease,” the COA noted that it should have already endeavored for the construction of a new building.

The OSG sought funding for a new office building in 2008, and for a retrofitting project in 2022, but these never came to life due to “budgetary constraints,” the report said.

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Guevarra, for his part, said the OSG’s main office building, which is in danger of collapsing in a major earthquake, could not accommodate nearly a thousand personnel. “It is my intention to relocate and build a new and modern building for the OSG during my incumbency to reduce, if not eliminate, these rental expenses,” Guevarra said in a Viber message to the Inquirer. —With a report from Jane Bautista


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