SENATOR Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada took advantage of the budget hearing in the Senate to confront Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan, whom he had accused of singling him out in the agency’s pork barrel investigation.
Estrada asked Tan why he was being singled out by Tan, citing a statement attributed to her that he will be the first to receive a “notice of disallowance” from state auditors.
A notice of disallowance is a tool of the COA to retrieve public funds which the commission found to have been misused.
Estrada, former senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. were among those found by COA to have channeled millions of pork barrel funds to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.
Tan said she did make the statement to the media but insisted she is not focusing on Estrada. She said she only wanted to make sure Estrada receives the notice so that he will not accuse COA of not doing its job.
Tan said that as part of their policy, COA does not issue notices while a report is being made.
“Everyone who will be found to have participated in a particular transaction which turned out to be questionable will be sent the notice of disallowance,” she said.
Tan also informed Estrada the COA was get hold of documents with his signature, on which it based its report that the senator had dealings with the questionable NGOs.
Among the documents were project proposals, memorandums of agreement, requests for the release of fund to the NGO, letters endorsing the NGOs, lists of beneficiaries, work and financial plans, monitoring reports, certificates of project completion and disbursement reports.
Tan said the papers were either signed by senators or their representatives.
But Estrada said legislators should not be blamed for the questionable transactions involving their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) because the implementing agencies were in charge of the projects.
He said legislators did not touch their pork barrel because the money is released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the implementing agencies.
“Assuming that we repeatedly endorsed this particular NGO, the implementing agency should have called the attention of the legislator once they found out that there is something wrong,” he added.
Tan told the senator the COA had statements from officials of the implementing agencies that they were merely following what the legislators wanted.