COA received P143M in DAP funds last year
Does Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s “quick-moving projects” include fast cars and faster computers for state auditors?
The Commission on Audit (COA) in 2012 received P143.7 million from the Aquino administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to buy its officials new cars, acquire computers and hire consultants, Audit chair Grace Pulido-Tan told the Senate on Monday.
Tan made the disclosure as the Senate allowed the COA chief to directly answer the questions posed by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada during the late-night deliberations on the agency’s P7.97-billion share in the P2.26-trillion national budget for 2014.
It was the second time Estrada grilled Tan during the budget deliberations—the first was during one of the hearings of the Senate committee on finance—as the COA’s special audit on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, pointed to the opposition senator as one of the lawmakers whose fund entitlements went to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
The DAP came to light after Estrada disclosed in a privilege speech that senator-judges, who convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 at his impeachment trial, received P50 million each in lump-sum allocations.
Estrada, who was subsequently charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing huge amounts of his PDAF, insinuated that Malacañang had offered the additional allocations as an incentive to convict Corona.
Abad later explained that the additional lump-sum allocations came from the previously unknown DAP, a mechanism that impounds unused funds of agencies, to help pump-prime the economy. It turned out that a few senators got P100 million from the DAP.
“It appears one of the quick-moving projects referred to by [Budget] Secretary [Florencio] Abad is the purchase of cars. Is that correct? Is my interpretation correct?” Estrada asked Tan.
Tan keeps mum
Tan, a lawyer, kept from making any comment as the DAP’s constitutionality was pending in the Supreme Court.
“Sir, I think the rationale for the DAP is precisely at issue in the Supreme Court. So I would like to decline to comment on that,” Tan said.
Several groups have questioned the constitutionality of the DAP and the PDAF in the high court. The tribunal ruled on Nov. 19 that the PDAF was unconstitutional. It has yet to rule on the DAP.
Tan said the COA was allocated P143.7 million from the DAP in 2012.
This amount, she said, was broken down into P68,352,737 for information technology infrastructure; P2,079,900 for closed-circuit television systems; P4,607,000 for legal and management consultants; and P5,115,000 for new cars for its officers.
Officials that were given cars bought with DAP funds were Commissioner Heidi Mendoza and two COA directors, Estrada told reporters in an ambush interview on Tuesday.
Tan said the purchase of her own service vehicle was funded by the COA’s budget, not by the government’s realigned savings from the DAP.
The COA chair indicated that the balance of more than P60 million from the DAP would be used to improve the commission’s IT capabilities. “So this is where we are focusing now because this is what we really need,” Tan said.
“I requested the DBM [for funds] because when I got into COA, we found out that we were behind in terms of computerization,” Tan said when Estrada asked who had requested the executive branch for additional funds.
“Our computers are the type which still used floppy disks and so we needed to modernize in order to carry out our work efficiently and well. We found out the great backlog, so we wanted to hire some consultants. So I did request that,” Tan added.
Request for funds
She said she requested the funds in 2011. “I don’t think there was already a DAP at that time,” Tan said.
“If you ask my opinion madame chair, your agency, COA, cannot be objective in its audit on the propriety and legality of the DAP when the agency itself is a recipient and beneficiary of the DAP even if there is no irregularity in the disbursement of the DAP, and everything was in accordance with the Saro (special allotment release order) issued by the DBM,” Estrada said.
Tan said the COA wasn’t in the business of determining the legality of the DAP.
“Sir, with due respect, as to the legality of the DAP as to the releases of the DBM, that is already in the Supreme Court. We did not raise any issue on the legality. That is for the Supreme Court to decide. What we are auditing, sir, is the utilization of the DAP,” Tan said.
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