COA told to distance itself from Palace

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A lawmaker on Sunday advised the Commission on Audit (COA) to insulate itself from the influence of Malacañang following COA Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan’s admission last week that the commission received funds from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

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Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said that instead of “undermining” the power of the Congress to scrutinize the budget by automatically appropriating funds for constitutional commissions, the COA should distance itself from the Palace.

“In fact, instead of avoiding Congress, Chair Pulido-Tan as well as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad should better explain well why COA, an independent commission, received such big augmentation amount for its budget from the executive department when such fund transfer is not allowed under our Constitution,” Zarate said.

The lawmaker claimed that the P147.7 million that COA received from the DAP is “clearly irregular” and “unconstitutional.”

“It places COA in a clear conflict of interest situation especially that it is currently auditing DAP-funded projects,” Zarate added.

During the agency’s budget deliberation last week and after Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s prodding, Pulido-Tan admitted that she asked the Department of Budget and Management in 2011 for funds to upgrade COA’s computer system and purchase vehicles for its commissioners.

Zarate, moreover, pointed out that COA did not have any savings in 2011 and 2012.

“Thus, there is no way for COA therefore to augment anything in its budget, like purchase of new cars, without any savings at all from its own operations.”

COA—like the Commission on Elections, Civil Service Commission and Commission Human Rights—is a constitutional body independent from the three branches of government. Unlike other departments, it is financially autonomous and can keep its own savings for its future use.

“This is the problem with this highly aberrant centralization of public funds by the executive department. It has become a source of presidential pork that President Aquino is dispensing to whoever he wishes,” Zarate maintained.

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