House panel to review Martires' proposal to halt release of annual audit reports

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The House Committee on Appropriations will look into the suggestion of Ombudsman Samuel Martires on the non-publication of annual audit reports (AAR) of government agencies.

"The Committee on Appropriations is open to studying the suggestion of the Honorable Ombudsman Samuel Martires regarding the removal from the general provision of the General Appropriations Act the provision on publishing the Audit Observation Memorandum and will carefully evaluate the impact and implications of such action," said Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Elizaldy Co, chairman of the panel.

Martires has assured that his intent in restricting access to the Commission on Audit's AARs was not to shield erring and corrupt government officials and employees, but to ensure that only the final audit report is made public.

"The Annual Audit Report could still be taken up on appeal before the Commission on Audit En Banc and the Court," he said in a press release.

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro expressed shock at the Ombudsman's proposal as she stressed that many anomalies in the government were exposed due to the AARs.

"The AARs are normally used by media, non-government organizations and other corruption watchdogs to see if indeed government agencies and officials are using taxpayer's money judiciously and are not enriching themselves," Frasco argued,

Meanwhile, Co highlighted that it is vital to take into account the influence of such publications on the reputations of public officials.

He said he understands the Ombudsman's concern about preventing hasty judgments and confusion among the public when reading AARs.

"Rest assured that Ombudsman Martires's proposal will be discussed thoroughly within the committee, and we will engage in a comprehensive review to determine the best course of action in line with our commitment to transparency and accountability in government," Co said.