COA stands by credibility of pork barrel report

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 22 2013 08:36 PM | Updated as of Aug 23 2013 04:36 AM

Tan blames DBM for poor record-keeping

MANILA - Commission on Audit (COA) chair Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan defended her agency's audit findings on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel amid reports of errors and inaccuracies.

Tan said in a phone interview that the reported errors, such as the P3 billion in PDAF allocation attributed to Rep. Manuel Zamora, did not come from them.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had admitted the attribution of the amount to Zamora was a clerical error.

"We always base our findings on documents, and that was the document that was given to us by the DBM and we put full reliance on it," Tan told ABS-CBN News.

She said the problem stems from the DBM's poor record-keeping from 2007 to 2009, the years covered by the audit.

Tan made this observation during the COA's presentation of its findings last August 16.

"I think it's really on the part of the DBM. There were lapses in their record-keeping," she said.

Tan added that the COA returned the initial audit report to the DBM for double-checking.

"We gave them a lot of time within which to respond," she said, "And at no time did the DBM call our attention to it to say there was an error."

Despite the error, Tan said the credibility of the COA report remains intact.

For one, she said the P3 billion that actually went to the Department of Public Works and Highways and not to Zamora was not included in the audit, which only covers P32 billion for infrastructure projects.

Tan also belied claims that PDAF allocations had no ceiling yet at the time the audit was done.

She explained that the agency identified legislators with excess PDAF allocations because the budget law is clear: congressmen are entitled to get yearly pork amounting to only P70 million, and senators P200 million.

Tan is confident the COA's report will stand scrutiny, including by the Senate, which will begin its probe into allegations of pork barrel misuse next week.

"We exhausted all means," she said. "We really spent a lot of time and effort for this."