COA flags SolGen's P14-million spending on plane tickets, supplies, hotels

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2019 05:45 PM | Updated as of May 21 2019 05:46 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged expenses of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on foreign travel, office supplies and equipment as well as trainings and meetings done in hotels and restaurants, which it said violated government audit and procurement rules.

In its 2018 audit report on the OSG, the state audit agency said a total of P7.128 million was spent on plane tickets for foreign travel without complete documents such as three quotations from travel agencies or its equivalent, contrary to provisions of the Audit Code of the Philippines. 

“In addition, some itinerants were allowed to reimburse their airplane ticket without the price quotation and abstract of quotations attached to the claim,” the COA report said.

A copy of the audit report was received by the office of Solicitor General Jose Calida on May 10, 2019.

The report said the OSG subsequently submitted the documentary requirements for the procurements and at the same time agreed to “ensure [that] all documents required be attached before effecting payment/reimbursement of claims.”

The report also noted that P5.510 million was spent on ordinary office supplies and equipment through the alternative mode of procurement without the necessary postings in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) website, inconsistent with Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The commission said the OSG had commented during the exit conference that its administrative division would “strictly comply with the recommendation to post in PhilGEPS and in the premises of the OSG” as prescribed by law.

A total amount of P1.270 million was also spent for local trainings in hotels and restaurants “not usually used for government-sponsored international conventions,” the audit agency said. 

It said the use of an alternative mode of procurement is not compliant with COA rules and provisions of RA 9184.

Among the disbursement vouchers flagged by auditors involved events such as planning sessions, workshops, and International Organization for Standardization meetings, with payments made to the following: El Cielito Tourist Inn Inc., I’M Hotel, Cocina Dela Abuelas Corporation and World Hotel Makati Inc.

“The seminars/trainings could have been done in the office premises, government facilities or in hotels and restaurants used for government sponsored international conventions, meetings and the like that would charge lower costs,” the COA report said.

The commission said the OSG explained that due diligence was done before entering into contracts with the venues.

“Management commented that said venues were duly canvassed and they were the most responsive and passed the scrutiny of the Bids and Awards Committee,” the COA said.

Honoraria of resource persons amounting to P442,704 was also flagged by government auditors as well as P337,233 terminal benefits of a retiree, but the OSG subsequently submitted the required documents.

Auditors also noted the excess daily subsistence allowance of OSG staff amounting to P79,249. Justifications were made and excess amounts were returned, COA said. 

The full audit report on the OSG can be downloaded from the COA website.