Quietly and without fanfare, the Commission on Audit (COA), among all the vital-for-governance commissions explicitly created by the Constitution, is doing its job and rendering laudable service to the nation.
Its audit of the use of public funds has been thorough and professional, and has helped to expose the dark underside of plunder of the public treasury, and the mismanagement and misallocation of resources by various departments of the Aquino administration.
The list of COA audits that have helped to uncover massive wrongdoing is growing.
It was an audit by the Commission during the time of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that set the stage and produced the facts that led to the uncovering of the massive abuse of the congressional pork barrel by senators, congressmen and Janet Lim-Napoles, and the subsequent indictment of a long line of plunderers and grafters.
COA also exposed the P10.1 billion in cash advances that various government agencies have left unliquidated, even as their erstwhile chiefs are now seeking higher positions in the government, and as the Aquino government is winding down its term this year.
The P10-billion unliquidated cash advances include a P700 million cash advance by the DILG under Mar Roxas when he was secretary of the department, and who now aspires for the presidency. They include nearly half a billion cash advance by the Justice department under Leila de Lima, who is now bidding to become a senator. They include some P3 billion of unliquidated advances by the Commission on Elections, which were racked up by previous commissions.
No one knows whether these cash advances will ever be liquidated or repaid, but the COA should not relent in holding officials responsible to account.
We recall today these past revelations, because COA has disclosed that this year there is an even bigger catalogue of horrors in the use of public money.
In a report, COA revealed that Government transactions worth P100.83 billion in 2013 were found to be illegal, irregular, excessive and doubtful.
In a nine-page summary of Significant Accomplishments of the Commission on Audit for 2013, state auditors said the P100.83-billion government transactions were covered by 38,110 notices of disallowance (ND), notices of charge (NC) and notices of suspension (NS) in 2013.
NDs are issued for government expenditures or use of government funds and properties that are deemed “illegal, irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable.”
NCs are issued for transactions with under-appraisal, under-assessment or under-collection by revenue and regulatory agencies or those that dispose of government assets.
An NS, which can mature into an ND, is issued for a transaction that is of “doubtful legality, validity or propriety accompanied by a directive for accountable officials to submit clarifications or additional documentation.”
State auditors said 15,648 NDs for fund releases and expenditures amounting to P26.12 billion were issued, of which only NDs for P96 million were settled.
State auditors also noted that 202 NCs were issued for transactions worth P53.38 billion, with national government agencies accounting for P53.17 billion. There were 22,260 NSs covering fund releases in the amount of P21.33 billion in 2013.
The COA released the figures without identifying specific government agencies or offices, which include local government units, government-owned or controlled corporations, state-owned universities and colleges and water districts.
Under audit rules, NDs and NCs “shall be considered as audit decisions” which are enforceable, requiring those who are found liable to return the amount involved.
COA should not stop at just getting this latest story out in the media. It should now proceed to identify the agencies and government corporations involved. And it should start the process of getting the money returned by those involved.
Contrary to its hypocritical stand that it follows the straight path, the Aquino administration may in fact be the most crooked and incompetent the country has ever seen. COA is vital in uncovering for the nation the real story.
Commending the Commission on Audit at this time is our way of saying that it must keep up the good work, that it must withstand the bullying by administration bigwigs, and that it must maintain the highest level of professionalism until the formation of a new administration next year, we hope will be more honest and competent than BS Aquino’s.
If we can maintain a pocket of efficiency and integrity at the COA until then, the country will be in reasonably good shape to handle future crisis and trials.