At least there is COA PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 July 2018 14:00

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

Reports in the media about the work of the Commission on Audit (COA) in the various government departments and agencies indicate that it is busy keeping track of the financial transactions of all government offices. And it is a good thing that we have COA, otherwise the country will wake up one day to find that there is nary a centavo left of what is euphemistically called “people’s money”.

In spite of the efforts though it would seem to me that COA is like a strainer with a hole in the middle. COA restrains the flow but most of the money goes right through the hole. One reason might be that COA audits spending reports of the previous year and by the time the questionable spending is found and the red flags raised, the money has been spent and is gone. And the amounts involved are no laughing matter but more mind boggling.

The most recent report I came across in the papers is that of COA’s 2017 audit of PAGCOR. The audit showed that for 2017 PAGCOR granted its officers some P58 M in representation and travel allowances (rata). It’s top 3 officers received monthly allowances of P110K,  P90K,  and P40K,  respectively. Two general managers received P75K each as monthly allowances.

Mind, reader, that these amounts were for allowances on top of their salaries. Lucky they. But how are these allowances justified?

The same news item mentioned that President Duterte’s EO No. 36 specified that “unconscionable allowances, incentives and benefits in  government-owned  and controlled  corporations  be eliminated”. As a directive this is difficult to follow. Exactly what is the limit of an  “unconscionable”  amount?  Presuming that people still have their conscience, that conscience will vary from one person to the next. And many will likely say  “If it is not my money that is being used the bigger the amount the better it is for me.”

And this is exactly what we have read  about the spending in other government  departments and agencies. The shopping in Duty Free Shops by DOT officials, charged to the DOT. That Christmas party of a government agency  in one of Manila’s most expensive hotels and the tab was in 7 figures. The unliquidated expense reports for the ASEAN summit in Manila and the numbers run (again!) in the millions.

I remember reading that there is a rule limiting allowances of public officials to not more than 50% of their official salaries. If this rule is in place then a monthly allowance of P110K means the official gets a salary of P220K a month. That is more than the President’s official salary.

How can we say the Philippines is a poor country if these expenses are the kind that public money is spent on?