OP foreign travel expenses up by ₱367M in 2022 – COA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — An audit of the Office of the President’s (OP) budget shows a “significant increase” in foreign travel expenses in 2022.

The Commission on Audit’s (COA) latest report on the OP showed foreign travel expenses went up by around ₱367 million from ₱25.2 million in 2021 to ₱392.3 million last year.

“Significant increase of ₱367,052,245.96 is due to the official travels relative to the foreign summits and state visits attended by the President during the year in Singapore, Indonesia, United States of America, Cambodia, Thailand, and Belgium,” the COA said.

Meantime, expenses for local travel went down a bit from ₱11.5 million to ₱10.7 million.

The OP’s confidential and intelligence expenses stayed at ₱4.5 billion, the same as in 2021.

Unliquidated fund transfers

Auditors flagged unliquidated fund transfers amounting to over ₱631.5 million, mostly or almost ₱500 million are transfers to various national government agencies.

More than half or ₱345.4 million of the total unliquidated balance pertains to transfers from over 10 years ago.

“Based on our review, there are strong indications that the liquidation of the dormant accounts could no longer be imposed,” the COA said.

The reasons being some of the cases of fund transfer were made prior to the new government accounting system, while some are 15 years old and are considered remote.

The OP management assured the COA that it is closely monitoring collection efforts. It added that demand letters have been issued to agencies with outstanding accounts.

Public's benefit

Meanwhile, the Presidential Communications Office said that the President's domestic travels are important to his decision-making process.

"Moreover, directly connecting with the local governments, local communities, and sectoral groups is an integral part of the President's decision-making process," the PCO said in a statement.

It added that the international invitations to Marcos will benefit the public.

"Aside from this, the Office of the President has received a huge volume of invitations for international events, conferences, high-level meetings, and state visits, among others, and the OP has acceded to some of these requests, knowing that the country and the public, in general, will benefit immensely from the President's participation in these engagements," said the PCO.