THE Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) branded as “misleading” the Commission on Audit (COA) report about the agency’s questionable use of rental vehicles in 2014 amounting to more than P45 million.
“If you look at the report, it has a lot of observations. But, what is important is the recommendation of the resident auditor at the end of the report, which is to secure the approval of the Department of Budget and Management for the vehicle rentals. This we have complied with and received DBM approval on September 15, 2015,” OPAPP Undersecretary Luisito G. Montalbo said.
State auditors said the rental expenses were not authorized.
But Montalbo explained that COA did not disallow the rentals because it even confirmed the OPAPP’s compliance with an executive order that required “ad hoc agencies with specific tasks to perform” to merely rent, and not outright purchase vehicles, for their operational use.
“The report was intended to strengthen and tighten procedures,” he said.
According to the COA report, the OPAPP, in 2014, leased 294 vehicles, 89 of which were rented on a monthly basis.
State auditors noted that the number of vehicles rented by the agency “exceeded what is usual or proper” under COA Circular No. 2012-003 or the “Updated Guidelines for the Prevention and Disallowance of Irregular, Unnecessary, Excessive, Extravagant and Unconscionable Expenditures”.
But Montalbo countered that OPAPP operates on a national scale but has no regional offices or facilities to address operational needs.
He added that they only rent vehicles when needed.
“For us to fulfill our function of monitoring the projects, which are, more often than not, located in hard-to-reach and conflict-affected areas, we have to deploy staff for site visits, community consultations, etc. So for this purpose, we do not have a choice but to rent vehicles,” he said, adding that OPAPP also needs to rent motor vehicles “for the use of the peace bodies under the Mindanao peace process, including the International Monitoring Team and other ceasefire monitoring mechanisms.”