PROUT: Transparency in audits, a way to safeguard public funds
The Commission on Audit (COA) is an independent constitutional body mandated to review the use of funds of all government instrumentalities.
The only scope of the president as the appointing authority of the commissioners of COA is just that, to appoint them. After that, they are protected by a security of tenure and they have full scope to devise ways and means as to how they can effectively and efficiently fulfill COA’s mandate.
The ongoing controversy regarding the COA finding that the Department of Health (DOH) had deficiencies in the handling of more than P67 billion worth of COVID-19 funds in 2020 is just a glaring example of audit findings that COA regularly discloses for transparency.
Disclosure of such findings is such a bedrock of the principle of transparency that even the president walked back his earlier statement that COA should not publish reports of its audit findings.
To be fair to COA, it has been disclosing its audit findings regarding all government units routinely in its website without fanfare and without press releases or conferences. Its press release posted on 16 August 2021 which said in part that the report on DOH “does not mention any findings by the auditors of funds lost to corruption” is a rare thing.
If media report in turn on such disclosures in the public interest, blame, if it is at all warranted, cannot be levelled at COA.
It also cannot be said that COA singled out DOH in its audit findings. Other agencies have recently been reported on by the media–the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA for its “alarming” transfer of more than P5 billion worth of scholarship funds to regions; a government hospital in Cebu for its release of more than P2 million worth of hazard pay to unqualified workers; the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration or OWWA for buying sanitary napkins at an abnormally high price of P35 each; the Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD for the release of P5 million worth of “inappropriately documented” funds to ex-rebels; the Philippine Ports Authority or PPA for building an “unnecessary” infinity pool for more than P6 million; the Department of Information and Communications Technology or DICT for purchasing gadgets worth P170 million from a construction firm which was outside the agency’s mandate; the Local Government Academy for recurring unliquidated fund transfers; the provincial government of Samar for “lapses” in payment to over 38,000 pandemic frontliners; and the local government units or LGUs of Cebu for doling out P120 million worth of “ayuda” to ineligible beneficiaries–to cite a few.
As every administration vows to get rid of corruption, the painstaking work of COA’s auditors to comb through volumes of documents to ensure that the government’s use of taxpayers’ money redounds to public welfare, especially during crises, should be welcomed.
At the very least, the administration should respect the independence of COA.**Note: This section appears here every month. If you want to read similar articles go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/PROUTManila/