COA Chair Grace Tan says goodbye
MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Audit (COA) on Monday bade goodbye to its first woman chair, Grace Pulido-Tan, who considered the institutional reforms she introduced to weed out “misfits” in the agency among her greatest accomplishments during her four-year stint.
But Tan, who was named by President Aquino to head the COA in April 2011, would perhaps be best remembered for leading the special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of lawmakers that led to the detention of three senators and the filing of criminal charges against other government officials and private individuals.
A lawyer and a certified public accountant, Tan served the unexpired seven-year term of Reynaldo Villar, who resigned in February 2011 following the controversy over his appointment by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008.
In a farewell speech at the flag-raising ceremony at the COA headquarters in Quezon City, she thanked COA employees in helping her improve the credibility of the commission.
Along with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Tan was recently named by the Inquirer “Filipino of the Year” for 2014. The newspaper called them the “3 Furies.”
“You are the real Commission on Audit, you who have made COA your life career and calling, and have sworn to serve with utmost dedication and faithfulness,” Tan told the employees of the constitutional commission tasked with looking into the financial transactions of all public offices.
“Let it therefore be also your pride and fulfillment. As such, make it so. Its future is in your hands and minds and hearts. Chairpersons and even commissioners will come and go… But the mandate and independence of the commission are etched in the Constitution and will remain so until our people say otherwise,” she said.
Tan said the cooperation of COA personnel made it possible for her to make the commission a more professional organization and “a truly independent COA” despite its limited resources.
She said the agency could proudly claim that its goal to make the COA personnel “a truly efficient, dedicated and faithful workforce,” which valued “integrity as a way of life,” was “no longer just dreams or aspirations. We have made them possible in very concrete and palpable ways.”
She said that she would be leaving the COA after “three years and 290 days” with “joy and fulfillment” and that she was happy to be “able to do what I told you then we would [do] together.”
“We asked our own ranks to account for their lapses and outright misconduct, and did not hesitate to impose corresponding disciplinary action,” Tan said.
“We ended the culture of political patronage, fellowship and debt of gratitude for self-aggrandizement. I told you to believe in your own qualities and qualifications, not in the endorsements of politicians… With these, we were also able to discover gems of public servants among you, long denied their rightful recognition,” she said.
She said the reforms that the COA implemented during her term were instrumental in allowing the agency get a positive 22 rating during a survey of best performing anticorruption agencies by Social Weather Station in 2013, up from positive 8 four years earlier.
In 2014, Tan said the COA ranked 12th in the Makati Business Club’s perception of government performance, a big leap from 31st place two years before.
CPA, Bright Spot
Under her watch, the commission launched in November 2012 a Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) that received reports, comments and suggestions from citizens. The participatory audit received great interest from COA counterparts in other countries.
Because of the CPA, the COA was chosen on Nov. 1, 2013 the “Bright Spot” at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in London. The Bright Spots competition recognizes the most inspiring examples of how open and accountable government is changing people’s lives.
The OGP is an initiative that seeks “to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.”
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