COA to ex-senator: Return P112,928 rental deposit refund received in 1998

A former senator allegedly pocketed P112,928.30 in rental deposit refund that was entrusted to him in 1998, the Commission on Audit (COA) has revealed.

In the 2020 Annual Audit Report (AAR) for the Senate, COA asked Senate’s Deputy Secretary for Administration and Financial Services to explain the reason for his failure to enforce the Notice of Finality of Decision directing the former senator to return the money.

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Released only this week, the 2020 AAR stressed that the legislative chamber should demand the return of the refunded rental deposit, pointing out that this is contained in the Notice of Finality of Decision that the audit agency released on February 29, 2016.

The identity of the senator, who is still alive, was not revealed in the 2020 AAR that was sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

The year 1998 covers the 10th and the 11th Congresses. Nine of the 23 Senate members in the 11th Congress are still alive while 11 senators have survived their 10th Congress colleagues who are now deceased.

“The Senate was not able to enforce the Notice of Finality of Decision (NFD) issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on February 29, 2016 on the settlement of refund on rental deposit and for the lost of firearms totaling P185,881.22 which remained outstanding for more than 16 years as at December 31, 2020 recorded under Other Receivables account,” COA said.

The NFD also directed two members of the Legislative Security Unit to return to the Senate P72,952.92 to cover the cash value of firearms they lost in 2004.

However, both security guards are now deceased.

State auditors said that on October 26, 2015, the COA Commission Proper issued Decision No. 2015-261 denying for lack of merit the request to write off dormant accounts of the senator and the two employees.

“Said ruling became final and executory on February 29, 2016 through the issuance of the Notice of Finality of Decision dated February 29, 2016 by the COA Commission Proper Secretary,” said the COA.

“However, despite the issuance of the NFD on February 29, 2016, the rental deposit amounting to P112,928.30 was still not refunded by the former Senator, thus, the account remained outstanding for more than 22 years since 1998,” the audit report noted.

According to state auditors, the Senate had already been reminded of the the same audit observations in 2017.

The report said it was then recommended that the Chief of the Legislative Accounting Service (LAS) "should prepare and send follow up letters to the Senate member requesting refund of the unused rental deposit.” In response to the audit findings, the Senate commented that the refund of P33,952.92 for the lost gun had not been enforced because the Legislative Security Guard involved was already dead and his family has refused to cooperate .

The second guard had also died.