COA to Duterte: 'We have a constitutional mandate to follow'

Published August 17, 2021, 6:41 PM

by Ben Rosario

The Commission on Audit has never “flagged or flogged” any government agency as claimed by President Rodrigo Duterte but will remain faithful to its constitutional mandate to audit financial transactions and expenditures of all government agencies and instrumentalities.

Chairman Michael Aguinaldo2

Responding to a query on the issue during a congressional inquiry on Tuesday, August 17, COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said the audit agency understands the observations aired on Monday night by Duterte.

However, he stressed that the publication in the media of annual audit reports is beyond their control.

“Our reports are published in the COA website as required by law. Hindi po kami nagpre-press release ng findings namin,” Aguinaldo told members of the House Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Probinsyano Ako Partylist Rep. Jose “Bonito” C. Singson Jr.

“You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person your are flagging,” Duterte said during his taped briefing that was aired on Monday.

On Tuesday, August 17, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate asked Aguinaldo if COA will heed Duterte’s demand to stop “flagging and flogging’ agencies with questionable transactions.

“We do not flag, it is only the media that uses that term,” Aguinaldo stated as he pointed out that COA has no control of what the media pick up and publish from the audit agency’s website.

“Insofar as the work of the COA is concerned, we have a constitutional mandate to follow,” he explained.

Duterte has been widely criticized for his censure of COA, with many senators and congressmen pointing out to him that COA is an independent body created by the Constitution to ensure that checks and balance policy is observed strictly.

“We have 9,000 people in COA who are dedicated and are professional in doing their job. there is no concerted effort whatsoever to criticize (agencies),” Aguinaldo stated.

He explained that COA is tasked to complete the AAR’s of all government agencies after the end of each year, adding that adverse audit observations are discussed with officials of concerned agencies who are given time to correct the issues raised or submit required documents sought by auditors.

Present during the hearing were Health Secretary Francisco Duque and key officials of the Department of Health (DOH).

The congressional inquiry was called on orders of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to clarify the adverse audit observations that COA reported in its 2020 annual audit report for the DOH.

In the 2020 DOH AAR, state auditors observed that the DOH had mismanaged at least P67.32 billion in fund allocated by government to combat the public health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duterte took issue against COA after news about the 2020 AAR of DOH became viral in the internet and hogged the newspaper headlines since last week.

Aguinaldo denied having issued any press statement on the issue, pointing out that since he was appointed to the top COA post in 2015, he has issued only ten press releases, including last week’s clarification of the DOH audit report.

Following Duterte’s criticism of COA, the state audit agency turned down requests for interview from various media outfit.

It was only after Zarate sought Aguinaldo’s comment during the congressional hearing that the side of COA was expounded in public.