DOJ chief to probe P816-M fund disbursement
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday vowed to look into the flagged disbursement of nearly P816 million in Department of Justice (DOJ) funds during the only full-year fiscal term of his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre II, in 2017.
At the same time, Guevarra said the DOJ would comply with the recommendations of the Commission on Audit (COA), which also flagged the “undocumented transfer” of some P621 million of the department’s funds.
This early, he said the finance officers of the DOJ had already “assured” him that all the funds appropriated to the department by the national government last year had all been accounted for.
“But I will look into these matters further,” Guevarra said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Asked if he would request Aguirre to explain, he said: “[There’s] no need. We’ll handle it internally.”
Aguirre, who quit in April after a series of controversial decisions, including clearing Cebu drug suspect Peter Lim and confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa, denied involvement in the payroll transactions questioned by the COA, saying they were “all below” his “level as secretary of justice.”
Guevarra had earlier declared that it was his personal mission to bring back the “dignified and respectable image” of the justice department and to “make it a cornerstone, and not a mere pillar, of our justice system” by introducing institutional reforms.
“The (DOJ) building remains the same, but it’s somehow corroded inside; it looks solid but its structural integrity is suspect both literally and metaphorically,” he said in a speech to DOJ employees.
In its annual audit of the DOJ’s financial transactions in 2017, the COA discovered that about P33.5 million in DOJ funds had been deposited in bank accounts without the proper authorization.
But Aguirre, in a statement on Saturday, said he had “no participation whatsoever in the transactions [mentioned in] the annual audit report released by the Commission on Audit.”
“These transactions involved operations between the Personnel Division and the Accounting Division. They are all below my level as secretary of justice,” he said.
“In the delegation of functions, there is an assistant secretary and undersecretary for finance. Unless the law requires direct action of the secretary of justice, all financial transactions are taken care of by these officials,” he said.
Aguirre decried reports on certain news sites that seemed to be making a big deal of the matter, saying the COA report merely required submission of supporting documents.
“According to the DOJ Financial Service, this is not a case of complete absence of documents or supporting documents. When these [journal entry vouchers] were drawn, there were supporting documents attached thereto, specifically the disbursement vouchers and the corresponding payroll warrant registers,” he said.
“It appears that the COA requires the submission of the . . . payroll register. This document is available and submitted to the Land Bank of the Philippines as the basis for crediting of the amounts to officials and employees,” he added.
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