COA slams 14 DOJ officials for frequent travels abroad

By Ben Rosario

Fourteen officials of the Department of Justice traveled numerous times abroad last year, incurring “huge amounts of traveling expenses”, the Commission on Audit has revealed.

Commission on Audit (MANILA BULLETIN) Commission on Audit (MANILA BULLETIN)

State auditors noted that a number of officials who were granted travel allowances have also failed to support the expenditures with complete documents.

COA made these audit observations in the 2018 DOJ audit report that was released recently.

COA noted that many events and meetings abroad were “attended by the same participants” while some were frequently attended by the same participants.

The audit agency also lamented that the airline tickets were procured with a travel agency.

“There were 23 types of meetings/for a/dialogues wherein two to five participants were sent by DOJ to attend, resulting in huge amounts of traveling expenses being spent by DOJ totaling P5,550,149.44

On the other hand, some P771,643.30 in expenditures were not supported by proper receipts and other documents for liquidation, according to COA.

Further, the state audit agency noted that DOJ spent over P1 million for airline tickets furnished by a travel agency notwithstanding the absence of a memorandum of agreement between the agency and the Procurement Service-Department of Budget Management Government Fares Agreement.

“Any procurement of airline tickets outside GFA may be subject to COA findings or disallowances,” auditors said.

They added: “We also noted that the majority of those who were sent to attend such events (international meetings) were the same officials and personnel of DOJ.”

The DOJ management explained that the participation of DOJ officials and representatives abroad cannot be considered as falling within the definition of unnecessary expenditures because of the country’s commitment to the Association of South East Asian Nations and some treaties or international agreement to which the country is a state party.

One official, identified as Bernadette C. Ongsoco, traveled nearly once a month and was given over P1.30 million in travel expenses and allowances.  Ongsoco attended international meetings in Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, China and Vietnam in 2018.

Marilyn L. Angeles, another DOJ official, went out of the country seven times last year, incurring at least P659,504 in her visits to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Austria where she traveled three times in 2018.\

Others in the COA list:

1.    Analiza C. Ite-Manito  - four foreign travels in Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, spending at least P423,225.

2.    George O. Ortha II – five trips abroad in Austria, Malaysia and Indonesia with expenditures reaching P437,691

3.    Grace Estrada – four international trips in Singapore, Thailand, Lao and New Zealand, incurring P429,428 expenses

4.    Jomarli B. Uztarez – two trips to Indonesia with P77,904 expenses

5.    Pamelyn Omalin    - two trips to Japan and New Zealand P354,287 expenses

6.    Mary Grace Quintana – five foreign travels in Vietnam, Singapore, China and New Zealand – P 529,527 in expenditures

7.    Deputy Director Mary Grace V. Pulido –Sadian two official trips to South Korea and Thailand, P 102,401 in expenditures

8.    Mildred Bernadette Alvor – three trips to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, P199,906 in expenditures

9.    Nancy G. Lozano – three trips to Malaysia, Lao and Nepal , P305,927 expenses

10.    Rosario Elena A. Laborte-Cuevas – three trips to Singapore, New Zealand and United States, P809,129 expenditures.

11.    Undersecretary Markk L. Perete –two trips to Austria and Lao – P 246,278 expenditures

12.    Maria Laureen D. Suan – two trips to Singapore and Lao – P307,576 expenditures.