MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte is fully aware of the constitutional mandate of the Commission on Audit (COA) to safeguard public funds.
Guevarra issued the statement days after Duterte told COA to stop flagging government agencies while documents are still being processed.
Duterte on Monday said COA should not flag government agencies while documents supporting every official transaction are still being collated and filed as this could create a perception of corruption among the public.
Duterte’s remark was triggered by the commission’s audit report flagging alleged deficiencies in the use of DOH’s COVID-19 funds.
Malacañang later clarified that Duterte was only asking the independent government body to stop publishing preliminary reports and not the annual audit reports.
“The President as a lawyer fully understands the mandate of the COA as a constitutional body. I think his chief concern is on the way the COA’s preliminary findings are presented to the public and the impression that it leaves in the mind of the people prior to full compliance by the agency concerned,” Guevarra said.
The Justice secretary also emphasized that in general, government agencies “exert a lot of effort” to comply with numerous auditing rules and regulations, although they are often hampered by the tedious process of collating and submitting documents in support of each and every official transaction.
“I understand that the COA recognizes this constraint and has expressed willingness to review and simplify its requirements, without sacrificing safeguards to promote efficiency, transparency, and accountability in government service,” Guevarra said.
COA earlier stressed it is not releasing its reports to the media but are merely being uploaded to their website. The commission is also not releasing any press statements unless it is meant to clear terms or avoid misinterpretation.
“My understanding is that the COA regularly reports its observations on a government agency’s compliance with standard auditing rules and regulations and with other regulatory processes such as in the procurement of goods and services,” the DOJ chief said.
“The COA also makes observations on the utilization of government funds and resources at the disposal of the subject government agency,” he added.
He, however, noted that the matter of determining whether any deficiencies noted in the course of audit constitute a possible violation of law devolves upon other organs of the government.
The issue on COA’s audit report and the agencies concerned are currently being discussed in separate inquiries in Congress.