'1,658 SAROs since 2010 fake, missing'

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 18 2014 05:40 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2014 01:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Over 1,600 Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) issued by the Department of Budget and Management from 2010 to 2012 were either fake, missing or unregistered, a serious matter that the DBM and Commission on Audit (COA) have failed to resolve, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Abakada-Guro party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said the COA during deliberations on the P2.265-trillion national budget for 2014 last year admitted that at least 1,658 SAROs were reported to be missing, fake, unregistered or had double serial numbers.

A SARO is a document issued by the DBM that authorizes an agency to enter into financial obligations or contracts to implement a project based on the budget appropriated for the purpose.

The same documents were issued for projects funded by the lawmakers’ now-defunct Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

He said the admission of the COA on the spurious documents puts into question the validity of the rest of the 40,960 SAROs issued during the same period that was worth nearly P2 trillion.

“Whatever happened to the DBM issuances regarding SAROs? They’re (COA) supposed to have given us a report. And the original report was that as of December 2012 they found out that there were 1,658 missing, fake, unregistered, double numbered SAROs,” De la Cruz told reporters.

“The 1,658 brought into question the provenance as well as the integrity of 40,960 other SAROs that were issued from that time and the face value of this is P1.943 trillion,” he said.

De la Cruz said he had repeatedly requested DBM officials for an explanation on the COA report since last year but up to now they have not replied.

“The DBM has not given a listing of the SAROs that they have issued from the time they took office,” he said.

The lawmaker said both the COA and DBM have been very selective in investigating the alleged PDAF scam in tracing SAROs.