COA wants pre-audit of certain transactions to prevent misuse of public funds

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) — The Commission on Audit (COA) is looking into reviewing government financial transactions before a certain budget is spent on projects and other expenditures to prevent the misuse of public funds.

According to a COA circular, a pre-audit means financial transactions will be examined before the payment process is completed. It will determine whether a proposed expenditure complies with regulations and that it is not unreasonable or extravagant.

COA chairperson Gamaliel Cordoba admitted to members of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday that the post-audit process sometimes frustrates him.

“Minsan ang pakiramdam ko po ay natapos na, nasayang na ang pera, nasayang na ang oras,” Cordoba said during a hearing on the COA’s 2024 budget.

“Kung maaari po ay maayos namin ang pre-audit, maglalagay lang siguro ng mga occasions or amounts kung saan tayo mag pre-audit so actually gusto po namin iyon,” he added.

[Translation: I sometimes feel it's a waste of money and time. If we could fix the pre-audit, we could arrange for occasions or amounts where we could pre-audit. so we'd prefer that.]

Cordoba's comment came after SAGIP Partylist Representative Rodante Marcoleta pointed out that a pre-audit may be better than a post-audit.

“Siguro pwede sila magsimula kahit sa big ticket projects,” Marcoleta said.

[Translation: Maybe they can begin even with big ticket projects.]

CIF funds

The COA is planning to convene several government agencies to revisit guidelines on the use of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).

Cordoba said he wants the meeting to happen within the third quarter of the year.

“Because of the increase in the confidential and intelligence funds, we will try to convene the inter-agency committee na nag-promulgate ng rules na ito para ma-update natin kasi medyo matagal na rin po ito, 2015, so eight years ago,” he said.

[Translation: Because of the increase in the confidential and intelligence funds, we will try to convene the inter-agency committee who promulgated these rules to update them because it has been a while -- 2015, so eight years ago.]

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro pointed out the upward trend in the appropriation of CIF.

She particularly noted the ?125 million in confidential funds spent by the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in 2022.

“Wala ito sa GAA 2022 pero parang na-realign ito so pwede bang imbestigahan bakit ito na-realign?” Castro asked.

[Translation: This wasn't in the GAA 2022 but it seems to be realigned so can we look into why it was realigned?]

Cordoba said COA will look into it.

The OVP earlier released a redacted transparency report that showed adjustments in the budget, including a ₱125 million allocation for confidential expenses. Other details such as the approving authority weren’t indicated.

The COA assured Castro that agencies are not able to download their CIF unless they submit quarterly liquidation reports on the use of the fund.

“Quarterly po kasi kung i-release iyan eh. Hindi sila makakakuha ng panibago kung hindi sila nakapag-submit ng liquidation doon sa nakaraang quarter,” COA commissioner Mario Lipana explained.

[Translation: It's released quarterly. They cannot get a new one if they haven't submitted the liquidation from the previous quarter.]

Meanwhile, several lawmakers expressed their support to provide COA with additional funds to increase operational expenses and personnel salaries.

The COA is proposing a budget of ₱13.3 billion for 2024, a bit lower than last year’s ₱13.5 billion.

“Long overdue na rin yung compensation package ng ating state auditors dapat magawa ito agad tapos bukod sa compensation, dapat matiyak yung proteksyon at seguridad,” Gabriela Partylist Representative Arlene Brosas said.

[Translation: The compensation package of state auditors is long overdue, this has to be done immediately and aside from compensation, we should assure protection and security.]