By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat warned on Wednesday that if the Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. fails to return P60 million it received from advertising placements, the matter will be brought to the Office of the Ombudsman.
On Wednesday’s House Committee on Appropriations hearing on the DOT’s proposed P3.39 billion budget for 2019, the DOT chief said she is leaving the matter up to the Commission on Audit (COA), which has the final say on the issue.
“As I was told the COA is giving those that were given AOM (Audit Observation Memo), six months to reply. Right now, it’s with the proper authority and we’ll just leave it all up to them, because they were given six months to reply,” Romulo-Puyat, who received praises and felicitations from the House members, said on Wednesday.
When asked by MAGDALO partylist Rep. Gary Alejano if the money should be returned, “ I think I’ll leave it up to the COA because they’re the proper authority to say if there should or should not be a disallowance, and they’ve already said that there is a disallowance.”
“As I know, if they do not pay within 6 months, it will go to the Ombudsman,” she said.
In an ambush interview with few reporters before the budget briefing, she said the P60 million the DOT paid for the advertising placements “hasn’t been returned.”
She said they are in “close coordination” with the COA to address the issue. She said it is sending people to audit all the existing contracts and help them strengthen their internal audit system.
Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, earlier said the money would be returned.
The COA had disclosed that the DOT, under Teo’s stint, placed P60-million advertisements on “Kilos Pronto” program produced by Teo’s brother Ben Tulfo. The COA noted that the Bids and Awards Committee did not inquire or request quotations from other television networks nor conduct a cost-benefit analysis as a basis for the recommendation for the procurement method considering that it is the first time for the DOT to enter into a news-type magazine segment contract.
The multi-million advertisement deal prodded Teo to resign from her post.
Teo explained that there was no conflict of interest since the transaction was between DOT and PTV-4.
Meanwhile, Romulo-Puyat did not comment on the dismissal of all board members of Nayong Pilipino Foundation. “Alam mo Nayong Pilipino kasi is under the DOT but we have no jurisidiction.”