COA presses sanctions vs tourism attaches for P326-M in unliquidated cash advances

Published August 11, 2021, 3:04 PM

by Ben Rosario

The Commission on Audit (COA) has asked the Department of Tourism (DOT) to pursue administrative and other legal action against accountable officers, including tourism attaches assigned abroad, for their continued failure to settle or liquidate some P333.84 million cash advances granted them.

DOT log

In its 2020 Annual Audit Report (AAR) for the DOT, COA instructed DOT to send demand letters to various non-government agencies, local government units and non-government organizations to liquidate over P426.88 million that the tourism department transferred to them for the implementation of various projects.

In a letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, state auditors also decried as “excessive, unnecessary and extravagant” various transactions covering P2,278,623.70 in total disbursements during the year Among the questioned disbursements were the P423,118.94 “excessive payment” for representation and accommodation expenditures for additional snacks and meal and payment of P20,300 to cover hotel expenses of seven employees, among other expenditure items.

At least P271,024 paid for traveling expenses on cancelled flights was also flagged by auditors.

COA described such expenditures as “irregular, unnecessary, excessive and extravagant” based on COA Circular No. 2012-003.

Rules and regulations in the grant and liquidation of cash advances were not “strictly observed” by DOT officials in connection with the unliquidated cash advances of P333,847,658.71.

“Of this amount, P308,791,169.94 or 92 percent remained unsettled for more than 90 days to more than 2 years, hence already past due for liquidation,” the COA said.

Further, at least P6 million unliquidated funds were cash advances granted to DOT “officers who are already retired/resigned or can no longer be traced”.

A total 13 Philippine Tourism Offices (PTO) abroad account for the largest amount of unliquidated cash advances at P326,683,405.92. Some P302 million remained unliquidated over 90 days after the deadline.

The 13 PTOs mentioned were those in Beijing, China; Frankfurt, Germany; South Korea; Los Angeles, USA; London, United Kingdom; New York, US; Osaka Japan; San Francisco, USA; Shanghai, China; Sydney, Australia; Taiwan and Tokyo, Japan.

The accountable officer in Osaka has reportedly resigned without getting a clearance for the P1,329,547 cash advance entrusted her by the main office.

“The Audit Team observed that the accumulated balance of past due accounts of PTOs is mainly attributable to the continued practice of granting additional cash advance despite previous existing unsettled cash accountabilities,” COA reported.

Responding to the adverse audit findings, the DOT management said its Legal Affairs Service has been sending demand letters to accountable former DOT personnel It also assured state auditors that no more additional cash advances will be released to finance special projects until previous advances have been liquidated.

Auditors called on the DOT to impose necessary administrative sanctions against accountable officers and tourism attaches should they continue to ignore demand letters for liquidation of cash accountabilities.