Lawmakers push for additional 2021 budget for state auditor

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — Lawmakers called for a higher budget next year for the Commission on Audit for 2021 for the agency to be able to perform its duty as an independent constitutional commission.

During the House of Representatives budget hearing for COA’s 2021 proposed budget, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said support should be given to the agency especially during this time of the pandemic as immediate releases of funds happen.

Lawmakers also noted that as a constitutional commission, COA should be given a budget that is at least equal to the funding given to them in the previous year.

Based on the presentation of COA, its funding increased by 3.6 percent to P13.567 billion from last year’s P13.086 billion.

However, this was only reflected on personnel services that increased by 4.9 percent to P12.907 billion for the second tranche of the increased salary of government employees under the Salary Standardization Law.

Under COA’s proposal, the original MOOE is at P651.452 million but Budget department revised this to P573.422 million. This allocation will serve as additional travel expense for auditors.

Meanwhile, bulk of the original P683.494 million CO was intended for the construction of provincial satellite offices especially in areas that have no regional COA offices. However, only the P86.916 million for ICT projects was considered by the Department of Budget and Management.

The original CO also includes the P173 million budget for 2020 that was unreleased due to the consolidation of remaining funds for COVID-19 response.

During the Senate budget deliberation on COA’s budget on Monday, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that not releasing COA’s fund violates section 5, article 9 of the Constitution.

Under the said provision, constitutional commissions like COA enjoy fiscal autonomy. “Their approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.”

However, Budget chief Wendel Avisado clarified that the said fund is still available and was not included in the allocation for Bayanihan 1.

Meanwhile, COA chief Michael Aguinaldo said that the “confidentiality” of intelligence funds makes it difficult to audit. However, he noted that there could be a room for abuse given this.

“To some extent you just have to think that at least the law enforcement agencies are using it properly. That they are actually able to stop certain events from happening,” he said.