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COA welcomes new execs Tan and Mendoza

/ 04:17 AM April 19, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The Holy Week began with a call for reconciliation and unity from new Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza.

Mendoza and the new Commission on Audit (COA) chair, Grace Pulido Tan, formally assumed office Monday, joining hundreds of colleagues at the flag-raising ceremony.

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The two new officials also spoke before COA personnel, who welcomed them with applause and a banner.

Mendoza, a former government auditor who gained national attention after she spoke out against the plea bargain between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and state prosecutors, acknowledged that some people could have been hurt by her revelations that affected the COA.

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Garcia was earlier charged with plunder, but was able to post bail and walk out of jail because of the plea bargain that slapped him with a lesser offense.

Mendoza, who led the audit of transactions involving Garcia, disclosed before congressional hearings a couple of months ago that there were those at the COA who had not been supportive of her during the audit.

Her statements ruffled some feathers at the agency, but there were also those who remained supportive of her.

Sorry

Mendoza Monday said she had no desire for vengeance and only wanted to serve the government and the people by being true to her mandate.

“Much has been said. Many were hurt and to them I say, ‘I’m sorry,’” she said, addressing COA personnel.

“But then of course let me also reiterate that I am coming back not to get back at those who hurt me, not to get back at people who do not believe in me. I am coming back because I am seeking a will that is bigger than my own and that is the will of those who placed me here,” Mendoza said.

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She told her colleagues—who are no strangers to her since she had worked at the COA for two decades before resigning in 2005—that she would listen and work with the audit agency’s personnel because she knew exactly what they were going through.

“I bleed for all auditors who, despite their salaries, are trying to give much to this country,” she said.

“Give me the opportunity to serve you and I reach out to each one with an open hand. And then, of course, I ask each one, together let us make this commission a proud institution of honest and working auditors,” she added.

No desire for power, fame

Tan, for her part, said she accepted the position of COA chair because she believed it was God’s will. She assured the audit personnel that she had no desire for power, position, fame or riches.

Tan said she would do all she could to ensure that the COA would be true to its mandate, as embodied in the Constitution.

“I ask for nothing from you other than your support and cooperation in delivering to our people their constitutionally mandated right to a full and proper accounting of public funds which, after all, are theirs, yours and mine,” she said.

Be relentless, bold

She also said the COA under her helm would resist outside influence or pressure.

“In the pursuit of this task, we will be relentless and bold,” she said.

She further called on her colleagues to do what was right. “Whatever good we can do, let us do it now. Fame, power and fortune will surely pass, but the legacy of an honest and competent public service will live forever,” she said.

Overstaying

In an earlier interview, Tan said her initial plans for the agency included looking into claims that there had been auditors who overstayed at their assigned agencies.

She also said her being a complete stranger to the COA was both a boon and a bane. On one hand, she brings a fresh perspective to the agency, but on the other, she said she has to learn the ropes in a short time.

She added that she wanted to bring the COA closer to the people, and to let them have the mechanism to report irregularities.

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