MANILA- A Palace communication official on Saturday denied the Commission on Audit's (COA) claim that the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) had failed to liquidate millions in cash advances used for presidential overseas trips in 2016.
"The issue of alleged unliquidated advances of some of our officers and personnel is a matter of reconciling travel records and official receipts,” Communications Undersecretary Noel Puyat said in a statement.
COA on Friday noted millions of unliquidated cash advances of PCOO personnel, mainly because of the "peculiar nature" of the travels of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Among officials the COA flagged was Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella for his P630,244.18 cash advance for Duterte's Brunei state visit, P622,404.67 used by the Philippine delegation at the ASEAN Summit in Laos, and P673,307.60 for the President's working visit to Indonesia.
Abella, in a statement, denied the allegation and said that he "submitted all liquidation documents to PCOO Accounting on time."
Puyat said the communication department's accounting division "will exert immediate effort to harmonize the files between the PCOO’s Accounting office and the Commission on Audit."
The PCOO earlier told COA that it has already issued a “stern reminder” to its officials and personnel to comply with the commission's liquidation rules as well as other pertinent regulations.
The PCOO however told the commission that it should consider the "peculiar nature" of the agency, which needs to follow the "consecutive travels of the President, especially last year when official and state visits of the President happened one after another, thus the delay in the liquidation of some cash advances on official travel."
P20 MILLION FOR MEALS, GIFTS, RAFFLE PRIZES
Puyat also clarified that the P20 million in "disbursements for media representation, meals, beverages, gifts and raffle prizes" were used by the department from January to June 2016, under the term of then President Benigno Aquino III.
The COA report shows that 'Expenses for Media' have been zero from July to December 2016. Puyat said.
"From the time we took office, we have exerted great effort to correct this practice. All disbursements for representation have and will continue to be supported by official receipts, and justifications to validate their regularity and necessity in the performance of our functions," he said.
Upon assuming office, Duterte vowed to lead a frugal administration and to crack down on graft and corrupt practices.