Malacañang on Saturday gave assurance that all expenses incurred and disbursements made by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) were “regular, actual and necessary.”
The pronouncement came in the wake of the release of the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on Friday which cited that PCOO has at least P2.984 million unliquidated cash advances supposed to have been spent during President Rodrigo Duterte’s local and foreign trips.
In a statement, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Noel Puyat said the PCOO will be able to clear the issue with COA, saying it was just a “matter of reconciling travel records and official receipts.”
“Consecutive ‘Statements of Audit Suspensions, Disallowances and Charges’ from the Commission on Audit show that there have been no suspended nor disallowed expenses by the PCOO since we assumed office in July 2016 and that we have been very transparent and regular in all our transactions,” Puyat said.
“The issue of alleged unliquidated advances of some of our officers and personnel is a matter of reconciling travel records and official receipts,” he added.
Puyat cited in particular the office of Palace spokesperson Ernesto Abella, which he said “has submitted all his receipts and the liquidation of his cash advances within days from his arrival from Presidential trips.”
The COA report stated that Abella has a total of P1.925 million worth of cash advances which have yet to be liquidated 53 days beyond the due date.
Abella’s cash advances, according to the report, include P630,244.18 spent for accompanying Duterte in his state visit in Brunei Darussalam from September 4 to 5, 2016; P622,404.67 for Duterte’s travel in Vientiane, Laos on September 6 to 8 for the Asean Summit-related meetings; and P673,307.60 for Duterte’s visit to Indonesia from September 8 to 9.
In a separate statement, Abella clarified that his office submitted the liquidation reports on time, but the accounting office is still processing the reports.
“The Office of the Presidential Spokesperson submitted all liquidation documents to PCOO Accounting on time, as attested by Undersecretary Noel Puyat, administrative officer,” Abella said.
“We understand Accounting is still processing all PCOO liquidation for submission to the Commission on Audit. As for the other officials and employees mentioned, PCOO is attending to these matters,” he added.
Meanwhile, Puyat said all expenses and receipts are on record and that the PCOO will immediately work to harmonize the files with the PCOO’s accounting office and COA.
He also acknowledged COA’s recommendation on PCOO’s representation expenses, which the former described as disbursements for media representation, meals, beverages, gifts, and raffle prizes from January to June 2016 amounting to roughly P20 million.
The COA report said that most of these expenses were not supported by sufficient official documents to validate and justify the necessity and propriety of the expenses made.
“From the time we took office, we have exerted great effort to correct this practice. All disbursements for representation have and will continue to be supported by official receipts and justifications to validate their regularity and necessity in the performance of our functions,” Puyat said.