Hontiveros: COA has sole discretion to configure audit reports

Published August 23, 2021, 5:32 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Commission on Audit (COA) has the sole discretion to configure its audit reports and no entity should tell how it should exercise its mandate, Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Monday, August 23.

Hontiveros said she takes exception to President Duterte telling the COA to “reconfigure” its audit report by stating that there is no corruption involved against government agencies to avoid tainting their reputation.

“I take exception, Mr. President, hindi lang dahil sa gitna ng pandemya kung gaya ng pinag uusapan po natin limited ang ating resources lalo’t higit nagiging mahalaga ang trabaho ng COA, pero dahil ito mismo ang sinasaad ng Saligang Batas (not only because we are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are talking about our limited resources. This highlights the necessity of the role of COA as stated under our Constitution),” Hontiveros said in her privilege speech during the Senate’s plenary session.

“It is not only that the COA is supposed to be independent, the Constitution — and here I am quoting the Supreme Court itself – ‘grants the COA the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination and establish the techniques and methods therefore,’ If there is anything to configure or reconfigure, it is solely at the discretion of COA at hindi pwedeng makialam ang Presidente (the President should not interfere),” the senator stressed.

Hontiveros said she finds it disturbing for the President to tell the COA to preempt any investigation on fraud, graft and corruption and other such malpractices whenever they release any audit report of a government agency’s spending.

“Sa totoo lang (in reality) to a layperson, to ‘reconfigure everything’ sounds like a directive to doctor the books or doctor the data,” she pointed out.

“COA red flags are there to tell us how to govern better, but they can also tell law enforcers where to look, and which trail to follow. In many instances in the past, the COA report is the smoking gun or material evidence of corruption. It cannot stand on its own, but on many occasions, it is an integral part of the chain of evidence that can lead to conviction,” she further explained.

Hontiveros also said she is concerned over the President’s repeated defense of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who is embroiled over questions on how the DOH spent its P67.3-billion worth of COVID-19 response funds.

The President, in his recent late night speech, said he will “stand for Duque, even if it will bring me down.”

“But as the country logs record-breaking COVID-19—which is 18, 332 today—the highest tally since the pandemic started with three laboratories unable to submit data, so totoo understated pa ito na 18,000 plus,” she said.

“And with a 25% positivity rate – it may be accurate to say that Secretary Duque has mostly been ineffectual. The Secretary suffers from a serious case of incompetence,” she lamented.