The Commission on Audit may still conduct a fraud audit of the reported overpricing of billions of pesos worth of face masks and face shields if sought by citizens or requested by any agency.
Former Commission on Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan aired the possibility as she supported the Senate in questioning the controversial transactions made with the Pharmally Pharmaceuticals and other suppliers with the Department of Health and the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management.
While COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo has disclosed that the 2020 Annual Audit Report for the PS-DBM and the DOH contained no findings of “overpricing” in the 2020 supply deals, Pulido-Tan found glaring factors that merit audit red flags.
“I think iyong ikunukwento sa (what was related in the) Senate hearing yesterday ay nanghingi ng (price) quote today tapos today nag-deliver na din, nag-deliver at hindi naman isinoli. (they sought a quotation today, then it was delivered also today and after delivery was made they did not return it),” said Pulido-Tan referring to the testimonies of resource persons invited by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to its inquiry into the alleged overpricing of face masks and face shields.
“That is a red flag,” declared Pulido-Tan, an appointee to the United Nations Independent Audit Advisory Committee.
“Why should there be a delivery and why would the agency accept it when there was still no approval or decision to purchase?” she asked.
In a webinar on Saturday, Sept. 18, Pulido-Tan said a prima facie finding of fraud will give COA the reason to conduct a full blown anti-fraud audit of questioned transactions.
Conducted on Saturday, Sept. 18, the webinar entitled “Confronting Corruption” was organized by the Public Policy Research Group and civil society group Soul Ph headed by former Senator and Manila Bulletin columnist Joey Lina and the Rotary Club of Makati Central.
Pulido-Tan was COA chief when the state audit agency conducted special audit Congress and various government agencies that exposed the so-called P10 billion pork barrel scam.
According to her a fraud audit can be pursued by COA once the agency’s attention is called on anomalous transaction through the citizens desk; upon the request of an agency or by the auditors themselves.
The independent audit examination is assigned to COA’s Fraud Audit Office and if anomalies and fraudulent transactions are found, a report will be submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice Prosecution Service “for further evaluation and filing of complaint against persons found liable.”
“Fraud is a state of mind, but there are physical and concrete manifestations that we need to watch out for,” she said.
DOH and PS-DBM officials, together with executives of Pharmally, have time and again declared that COA has never claimed overpricing in the multi-billion peso transactions for personal protective equipment , face masks and face shields brought by government at the height of the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020.
Aguinaldo confirmed their claims although he clarified that COA auditors concentrated in determining that there have been disbursements of funds and that deliveries were made out of the said payments.