WHY is Malacañang’s temporary chief occupant, otherwise officially known as Office of the President, exempted from audit by the Commission on Audit? After all he, along with his appointees, is being paid with taxpayers’ money that government auditors are mandated to protect.
Likewise, there should be an explanation as to why COA no longer audits the Senators and the members of the House of Representatives. For the reason that the Senate and the House make up Congress, it is more imperative now for COA to audit their members because some of them have turned it into a subsidiary of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Our supposed lawmakers now seldom make laws or have forgotten why they are members of Congress. Instead, they investigate. Don’t their expenses and compensation also come from the people?
There must be a good but justifiable reason why all these elected top officials and continue to enjoy exemptions from audit. As public auditors, COA officials lead a Constitutional office that is an independent and apolitical body. They may be underpaid but this should not deter them from carrying out their responsibility of reporting government expenses to the people. (COA chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan received P2,438,918 as her compensation in 2013. She joined COA in 2011 and left in February 2015 after serving the unexpired term of Chairman Reynaldo A. Villar and proving her independence as COA chief.)
If you are an avid watcher of government, you would be interested to know how much of the taxpayers’ money end up as salaries and pays and perks paid to public officials, starting with the president at the top. You would feel short-changed should any ment offices fail to make public their officials’ annual remuneration for all the years they have been in office.
Of course, you would be surprised, let alone angered, if you found some government offices were left unaudited. COA is supposed to be only official agency the Filipino people can depend on for transparency in the government via full disclosure of officials’ expenses.
Unluckily, Filipinos have no way of checking how their money is being spent because COA’s website shows nothing on the salaries and expenses of Malacanang’s temporary chief occupant and of Congress. If there is a law that exempts the President and our lawmakers from audit, then it should be made public. In short, COA should be responsible for educating us on the existence of such law and how it came into being.
As far as the taxpayers among us are concerned, they are being unjustly deprived of knowing where the government is spending the people’s money. The non-transparency of their expenses unnecessarily exposes them to perceptions of corruption if it does not make them easily susceptible to it.
What I know is that COA used to report the compensation for the ENTIRE government. That word in all caps should tell us no single government agency or official was exempted from COA audit. Why would any of them be granted special treatment such as an exemption from audit? Unless, of course, he or she has something to hide.
Is there hope for the revival of the COA audit of ALL government agencies and their officials? As for hope, perhaps there is none. After all, the senators and district representatives know fully well what’s best for them when it comes to sourcing their families’ financial requirements.
Incidentally, COA has yet to complete auditing the salaries of government officials for 2014. As of yesterday, it has on its website only the pays and perks “received by principal officials and members of the governing boards of government-owned and controlled corporations and their subsidiaries” in 2013 and in previous years.
As far as we know, the completion of COA’s audit of government compensation depends on the availability of data provided by government agencies. Hopefully, the delay this time would mean ALL government agencies, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), would submit the detailed salaries and pays and perks that they paid their respective officials and executives in 2014.
Last year, COA almost hit 100 percent of its target when it “received reports from 966 government agencies/instrumentalities representing 99.38 percent of the 972 expected reports.” What did the six agencies that failed to submit their reports have to hide from COA?
I am making this update on COA’s audit of government officials’ compensation in response to a request from a reader of The Manila Times, who read Due Diligencer’s piece on UBP’s P1.7-million compensation. Adopting “Hi” for an alias, she/he wrote:
“I’d just like to suggest that maybe you’d want to write about GOCCs as well, since their impact on the economy is more pervasive and the funds they disburse involve government subsidies – subsidies which are acquired from the taxpayers.”
Perhaps, Hi is interested to know if government officials could really afford living the lifestyle of the rich and famous that some of them display in public, with the kind of salaries and perks they receive in government compensation. The public would sure want to know these things and would respect COA more if it would regain its audit function over the expenses of the President and members of Congress. Yes, Hi and I would love to see how their lifestyle would pass COA audit.