Senate ready to open books to COA, says Ping

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2013 03:53 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2013 11:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is ready to comply with a recent notice from the Commission on Audit (COA) calling for an audit of its expenses amid rifts among senators over the use of funds.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the accounts committee, said the required documents have been prepared for submission. The initial batch of documents that will be submitted to COA covers the years 2010 to 2012, while those dating back to 2007 will be released at a later time.

"Today or tomorrow, the accounting office will be ready to submit the initial batch of documents," he told reporters Monday.

Lacson said the COA invoked its constitutional mandate in its letter to the Senate dated January 28.

"We have to comply, even the House. We'll all have to comply," he said.

Senators will have to decide individually, however, if they will submit documents for auditing from their respective offices. Lacson said they will hold a caucus before Monday's session to discuss the matter.

Also up for discussion is the possibility of doing away with the practice of liquidating additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) only through certification and not through receipts.

Lacson said the House initiated the practice sometime in 2010 or 2011 because it had problems with its resident auditor. Although liquidation through certification is not allowed by law, he said it found "legal cover" through a concurrent resolution that the Senate and the House passed.

Private audit

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano had earlier called for an audit of the Senate's expenses by a private firm. He has publicly attacked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile because of the latter's alleged unfair distribution of additional MOOE to senators from the Senate's savings last year: all but 4 senators, including Cayetano, received P1.6 million in additional funds.

Lacson pointed out, however, that the budget law does not authorize the Senate to pay for a private auditor.

"Mahirap talagang i-justify," he said. "Walang makakapigil kung gustong ipa-audit sa private auditing firm. Pero hindi puwedeng gastusan ng pondo ng gobyerno."

Cayetano will file this week a resolution calling for a parallel audit of the Senate's expenses by the COA and a private firm.

He had argued that the COA is susceptible to pressure from lawmakers because their budget goes through Congress for approval and its officials need to be confirmed by Commission on Appointments, which is composed of senators and congressmen.