Chiz: COA at the root of gov't corruption

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Feb 15 2011 01:46 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2011 10:33 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero on Tuesday called for reforms in the Commission on Audit (COA), stating that corrupt state auditors are culpable for the proliferation of corruption in government.

"Karamihan ng problema ng corruption sa bansa, ang puno nasa COA. Kaya nga parating may porsyento ang COA. Every time that an issue of corruption crops up, we always find out that COA has 1-2%," he told ANC's Headstart.

Escudero said the Senate will study whether or not COA reforms can be implemented through a law since the audit body is an independent office.

The COA has come under fire after it was revealed at a Senate Blue Ribbon panel inquiry that state auditors received bribes to cover up the malversation of military funds.

Former military budget officer George Rabusa earlier said former COA commissioner Raul Flores regularly received P200,000 bribes from the military.

He said he was introduced to Flores by the former resident auditor of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Divina Cabrera, who is now with the Philippine Navy.

Rabusa said Cabrera also received 1%-2% share from the "converted" military funds, a charge that she immediately denied. Cabrera was resident auditor of ISAFP for 13 years from 1991 to 2005.

COA mulls redeployments

COA Chairman Reynaldo Villar earlier said he is seriously considering removing resident auditors in all national government agencies and replacing them with audit teams that will be based in the COA central office in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

Villar said the agency will now strictly implement the 3-year tenure rule for each auditor serving in national government agencies. The rule was created in 1987 through Resolution No. 87, which limited each auditor to serve a maximum of 3 years per agency and be transferred later.

He, however, clarified that the resolution also states that heads of agencies may be able to request the commission to extend the tenure of the assigned auditor based on his or her performance.

Villar welcomed the proposal of Rep. Joseph Abaya to audit around 6,000 auditors nationwide and subject them to a lifestyle check to verify whether their incomes justify their assets and other acquired wealth.

Villar said, "Hindi kami tutol dyan, but I just hope it will not be confined to COA alone."

In 2009, 26 auditors were either dismissed or suspended due to administrative cases, mostly on irregularities in performing their duties, while 37 auditors still have pending cases before the COA chairman's office.

In 2010, 21 auditors were either dismissed or suspended, while 46 more have pending cases.