Palace hands off on COA budget

By Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2014 04:01 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2014 12:01 AM

MANILA - Malacanang is leaving it up to Congress to discuss the budget of the Commission on Audit, which was reportedly reduced down to P435,000 from the proposed P800 million for their equipment and facilities.

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said that there is a principle that is being considered by Congress with reference to COA as an independent constitutional body.

"Hindi naman mahirap unawain ang punto na inilalahad nila. Pansinin lang natin na 'yung COA, Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections, at 'yung Supreme Court-ito ay mga kabilang doon sa tinatawag na financially autonomous group in terms of the national budget. Kaya tinatawag na financially autonomous, hindi naman binubusisi nang husto ng Kongreso at ng Ehekutibo ang kanilang budget dahil kinikilala sa Saligang Batas 'yung kanilang pagiging indipendiyenteng constitutional bodies," he said.

The Commission on Audit earlier saw its budget for new equipment and facilities nearly wiped out for 2015.

The agency proposed a capital outlay of P838 million for 2015 but this was reduced to only P435,000.

COA Chairwoman Grace Pulido Tan told the House of Representatives appropriations committee that the COA needs to make new investments in offices as well as information and communications technology.

COA presently does not have a physical regional office in all local government units in the country. Some are just holding office in the LGUs themselves, which make them less independent as they should be.

Tan also said COA does not have a centralized information system, noting that documents gathered by the COA in its work have been kept in sacks in their office and have thus been lost.

Some could not be produced during trial at the Sandiganbayan.

The COA's 2015 budget is unchanged from its 2014 budget which stands at P7.8 billion.

Tan, meanwhile, said COA returned some P65 million in Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds to the National Treasury.