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P1B for Arroyo trips unliquidated

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 01:44 AM September 22, 2011
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. INQUIRER file photo

The previous Arroyo administration has yet to account for almost P1 billion in cash advances for official travels made in its last few months in power, from 2009 to early 2010, the Senate learned Wednesday.

Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the unliquidated funds included P594 million spent on foreign and local travel in 2009 alone based on a report from the Commission on Audit (COA).

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In a committee hearing, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa also said Malacañang had uncovered an additional P367.3 million in cash advances for travel released in 2010 which remained unliquidated as of August 31 this year.

“We noticed also … that the bulk of these advances pertain to foreign travels of the former President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo),” Ochoa said, also citing COA’s findings.

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The figures came up during Senate deliberations on the proposed 2012 budget of the Office of the President (OP) and its attached agencies.

Disbursing officers

Ochoa said efforts to identify and run after the concerned, jet-setting officials had been hampered because disbursing officers coterminous with the previous administration could not be immediately reached

“We have yet to come out with the list (of delegates who have not yet liquidated their advances).  I understand from the career officials who remain under the Office of the President that there were numerous disbursing officers who were assigned or who received cash advances,” Ochoa told senators.

“We have initiated some efforts trying to dig up the names of persons who joined the foreign travels,” the Palace official added.

The secretary said he was also told that a distinction was made between “paying” and “nonpaying” delegates during the trips headed by then President Arroyo.

“The paying members are supposed to pay the cash advance extended to them by the Office of the President,” Ochoa noted.

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No official list

“However, it appeared when we were inquiring about this that there was no record at all (of) who were part of the delegation of the former President whenever she traveled abroad.  There was no official list, so the members of the delegation only became known if they voluntarily paid or reimbursed the government for whatever expense they incurred during those travels,” Ochoa explained.

So far, Drilon said, he had established  that Malacañang had a “total actual disbursement” of P940.1 million for local and foreign trips in 2009, based on COA records.

From this, P848.1 million was spent on foreign travel while the balance was used for local trips, he said.

In a press conference after the hearing, Drilon noted that the 2009 allocation approved by Congress for travel under the OP was “only P244.6 million.”

Impunity, abuse

“That the figures show that there are still some P594 million unliquidated as of yearend 2009 demonstrates the lack of respect of the previous administration for the appropriations law,” the senator said.

“In other words, notwithstanding the fact that only a little more than P200 million was the approved budget for travel expenses, a total of P940 million was spent, that is the kind of impunity and abuse committed,” Drilon said.

“There was absolutely no respect for the appropriation authorized by Congress.  They just disregarded (it) and just spent whatever amount they felt was needed,” he added.

As to travels made in 2010, Ochoa said an internal accounting conducted by his office showed that “as of Dec. 31, 2010, the unliquidated cash advances (that year) had a total of P571,190,306.”

Ochoa said liquidations had so far covered  P203,897,511 or a mere fraction of the total as of Aug. 31 this year, leaving a huge balance of P367,292,795.

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TAGS: COA, Foreign Trips, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Graft and Corruption, Senate
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