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Nancy Binay plea for COA report under study

/ 02:31 AM December 02, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–Sen. Nancy Binay failed Monday to secure an advance copy of the Commission on Audit’s initial findings indicating “red flags” on how executive agencies had spent their Malampaya Fund in spite of her claims that the COA had released results of a preliminary inquiry on alleged corruption in Makati City under her father’s watch.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said he would have to study Binay’s request, and would take into account COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan’s position that the “audit highlights” be considered confidential until after state auditors had gotten the side of the audited agencies.

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The COA last year completed an audit of releases from the Malampaya Fund to the Department of Agrarian Reform, Tan said at the opening of the panel inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of P900 million in the government share of revenues from the operation of gas wells off Palawan province that was meant to ease the plight of storm victims.

Tan said that her agency also had concluded its audit of Malampaya Fund releases to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, National Housing Authority and Department of Agriculture with two attached agencies. These are under review and would be released early next year, she said.

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The agency has also come up with audit highlights on the Malampaya Fund releases to the Philippine National Police and Department of Energy, she said, adding that the two agencies will be asked to comment on the findings.

Makati controversy

During Monday’s hearing, Binay asked whether the COA had findings similar to its audit of the Malampaya Fund releases to the Department of Agrarian Reform, which had unearthed several questionable acts.

But Tan declined to disclose the findings, saying that these were still being reviewed and might still be changed depending on the audit evidence. As for the audit highlights, the COA does not want to disclose these especially since the concerned agencies have not had a chance to respond to these, she said.

But Binay contended that the COA had disclosed its findings in a hearing on another issue, referring to the subcommittee probe on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II constructed while her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, was then mayor.

“So why cannot you disclose the findings?” Binay asked.

During the Makati issue hearing, the subcommittee compelled the COA to disclose its preliminary report on the construction of the Makati parking building, where auditors reportedly had found several red flags. Binay’s brother and father have been implicated in the controversy arising from the inquiry.

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But Tan said what was disclosed by another COA official during the hearing on the Makati building were not audit findings but “red flags,” which result from the initial evaluation on the bare face of the evidence and which would determine the direction of an audit. These were findings before the start of an audit.

All about fairness

She also said there had been red flags seen before the start of the Malampaya Fund audit in different agencies, and she would have disclosed these had she been asked about it then.

But since an audit has begun, the complexion of the situation had changed, she said. Until an audit has been completed, the COA’s policy was not to release the findings, she said.

Binay then sought a subpoena for the audit highlights.

Tan said she would “yield to any compulsive processes that the Senate may take on this matter.”

“But in terms of fairness and equity, I think that it is not fair to the parties concerned if even before they could comment, the audit reports would be subpoenaed,” she said.

But Binay would not be deterred. “I insist that I get a copy of the audit highlights,” she told Guingona, “and rest assured, Chair Tan, that I will not disclose the audit highlights.”

Guingona, however, said he would take Binay’s request into consideration and would rule on the matter “at some appropriate time.” He said he would take into consideration the COA’s position that it might be unfair to the person involved in the audit highlight if the findings would be disclosed prematurely.

He also noted that this was the first time such a request had been made to his committee.

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TAGS: Binay request, blue ribbon committee, Commission On Audit (COA), Malampaya fund, Nancy Binay, Senate, Senate probe, Teofisto Guingona III
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