Senate urged to lead by example
Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday filed a resolution urging the Senate to “lead by example” and to authorize a people’s audit or a joint or a parallel audit of its budget accounts by a private auditing firm and the Commission on Audit (COA).
An audit of the Senate’s expenditures appears to be underway as the COA is expected to receive records of the expenses of individual senators from 2009 to 2012 in a meeting among congressional leaders scheduled Wednesday.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate accounts committee, told reporters that he had received from the Senate accounting department records of the expenses over the past few years of individual offices of senators.
“They’re ready. I have the documents with me. We have a meeting with the COA chair [Grace Pulido-Tan] tomorrow [Wednesday], and I will already bring them with me,” Lacson said.
Lacson’s submission of the documents to the COA came after Tan requested “all papers, documents and information in your possession or care as chairman of the [Senate] Committee on Accounts, particularly those bearing on the augmentation and realignment of Senate funds, as well as the use/s to which the MOOE given to members of the Senate have been devoted.”
In her letter to Lacson dated Monday, Jan. 28, Tan said access to the documents would serve the COA in “forthwith [carrying] out a ‘no-holds-barred’ audit of Senate finances.”
Questions on propriety
The COA audit comes in the wake of a controversy arising from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s questions on the propriety of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s yearend release of P1.6 million in additional MOOE funds to each but four senators before Christmas.
Each senator was also given P250,000, which came from the savings of Enrile’s office.
“Be assured, Mr. Senator, of my commitment to personally see this matter through,” Tan said in her letter to Lacson.
Lacson said the expense records of the senators had been prepared as of 1 p.m. Tuesday. He said he had asked the staff to rush the preparation of the expense records of the Senate secretariat so that he could also submit them to the COA Wednesday.
Lacson said the meeting with Tan would be attended by Enrile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, An-Waray Rep. Florencio Noel.
Lacson said the congressional leaders would seek a clarification from the chairman of the COA on the scope of the documents that she had asked for and on the issue of having to liquidate expenses through receipts rather than by a lawmaker’s certification.