AMLC flagged over unnecessary training expenses

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — The Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for excessive meals and accommodation expenses incurred during employee training activities held last year.

In its 2022 report posted on its website last week, the audit body said the AMLC spent over ₱7.2 million on meals and hotel accommodation for 12 seminars and workshops.

This supposedly exceeded the travel expenses allowed under Executive Order 77 by ₱4.7 million.

AMLC records showed the daily expenses for each participant's meals ranged from ₱1,600 to ₱3,250 while accommodation costs ranged from ₱1,200 to ₱3,075.

Auditors noted, however, that the allowable amount for meals per participant is only ₱450 to ₱660 and ₱750 to ₱1,100 for accommodations.

They said it would have been more economical if the AMLC carried out the seminars in publicly owned venues.

COA found that most of the seminars were held in private venues such as the Park Inn Hotel in Mabalacat, Pampanga, Thunderbird Resort in Binangonan, and Novotel in Quezon City.

"We recommend that management direct the Deputy Directors to ensure that expenses on trainings, seminars and planning activities are in accordance with the rates prescribed under EO no. 77 as applicable for prudence and economy in operations," COA said.

In its comment, the AMLC insisted the expenses were reasonable. Management argued that at the time, there was a lack of available government spaces as the country was still under a state of public emergency.

"The AMLC found it was more efficient and economical to resort to leasing out venues from privately owned establishments," the AMLC said.

But the audit team maintained its stand that the expenses were excessive. They said the AMLC failed to provide documents to support the claim that there were no available government owned spaces at the time of the seminars.

They also insisted that it was unnecessary for employees to stay overnight in hotels for workshops held in Metro Manila, considering the AMLC office is located in the City of Manila.