COA: Wanda Teo possibly liable for graft in DOT-PTV ad deal

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Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo (L) and her brother Ben Tulfo

Updated on July 12 to include Former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo's statement

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo could be liable for corrupt practices when the department she headed entered into a multi-million ad deal with state-run media outlet PTV-4, the Commission on Audit found.

In its 2017 audit report on the Department of Tourism that COA posted on its website Wednesday, the commission said there could have been a conflict of interest when Teo's former department made ad placements on "Kilos Pronto," produced by her brother Ben Tulfo, which aired on PTV-4.

"Considering that the DOT Secretary and the producer of Kilos Pronto are siblings, there is a possible conflict of interest which may be a violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," the report read.

The said section states it is considered corruption when a public official gives private individuals "unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of their functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence."

Teo said she did not violate any law, adding that she is ready to answer the allegations "in the proper forum."

"My conscience is clear. I am confident that during my stint as Department Secretary, I did not commit or knowingly allow any violation of the Anti-Graft Law, or any other law for that matter," Teo said in a statement on Thursday.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who is also looking into Teo, said the COA report will "enlighten" and help the anti-graft agency's probe into DOT's alleged anomalous ad deal with PTV.

"We are not bound by the COA reports but they will certainly enlighten us in our investigation," she said.

READ: Tulfo-Teo: No conflict of interest in P60M tourism ads on brother's show on PTV-4

COA also flagged the advertisement time purchased by the DOT in PTV-4 to air "Kilos Pronto."

"The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DOT and the People's Television Network, Inc. (PTNI) and/or PTV showed a possible conflict of interest between the DOT and the PTV, considering that as per approved media plan P89,878,000.00 or 75 percent  of the computed contract cost will be paid to the program Kilos-Pronto which is under the company owned by the brother of the DOT Secretary," the COA said in its audit report.

The commission further alerted the lack of supporting documents on payments made in accordance to the MOA since December 31, 2017, which amount to approximately P45 million. It also pointed out inconsistencies in airing of the DOT videos and that the MOA itself did not specify what kind of DOT segments were to be aired on which PTV programs.

In response, the DOT said that its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) was not informed of the possible conflict when it granted the deal.

"No such conflict of interest was disclosed to the BAC by PTV and/or the project officer. Insofar as the BAC is concerned, no such relationship exists," the DOT said.

According to the DOT, Teo had already approved of the partnership when she had submitted the proposal to the committee on the basis of cost-efficiency.

"Thus, questions of propriety of the transaction and possible conflict of interest should have been addressed by the [Office of the Secretary (OSEC)] as the end-user unit and project officer," the DOT added.

The proof of broadcast of the DOT ads is still pending submission, as the department said that it is still looking for the video copies of the "iTravel Pinas Teasers."