MANILA - The Commission on Audit has noted millions of unliquidated cash advances of officials and employees of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, which were mainly because of the "peculiar nature" of the travels of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Among the officials flagged by the COA was Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, for his P630,244.18 cash advance for the Brunei state visit, as well as P622,404.67 for the ASEAN Summit in Laos and P673,307.60 for the visit to Indonesia.
The COA also noted unliquidated cash advances of Assistant Secretary for Policy and Legislative Affairs Michael Kristian Ablan for his cash advance of P228,700.00 for the National Communications Workshop; Ma. Teresa Hernandez for the US visit of Abella and former Foreign Affairs Sec. Perfecto Yasay worth P191,440.00 and the Misamis Oriental visit of the President worth P35,500.00.
Also mentioned was former Undersecretary Renato Marfil of the Aquino administration for “unrefunded balance of media operational expenses cash advance of 19,030.80 and erroneous refund of petty cash P55.90.”
The commission noted that under its rules, cash advances must be liquidated within 60 days after return to the Philippines in the case of foreign travel or within 30 days after return to his permanent official station in the case of local travel.
Other PCOO employees, who had cash advances with lesser amounts ranging from P11,209 to P90,747.66, were also mentioned, namely Miguel Achacoso, Ace Contemprato, Edmond Cruz, Ramon Cualoping III, Abbie Jean Demavivas, Aicha Louise Enriquez, Karl Fajardo, Maria Corinne De Guzman, Vince Andrew Ong, and Deah Ricacho.
The commission also said that they have recommended to the PCOO, which was agreed to by the agency, that the chief accountant monitor the liquidation of cash advances of officials/employees of the Agency as well as former employees, and that demand letters be issued to concerned individuals.
The PCOO told the COA that it has already issued a “stern reminder” to its officials and personnel to comply with liquidation rules of the commission 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.”
Asked for comment, Marfil said that like other government officials, there was just a delay in the submission of his official receipt worth P19,030.80.
Aside from unliquidated cash advances, the commission also noted “inappropriate expenditures” for the first half of the year, or during the Aquino administration, worth P20,041,901.58 covering “meals and beverages, media representation, official meetings, gift/raffle items, raffle prizes”.
Also noted were expenses for the latter half of 2016, during the Duterte administration worth P1,577,656.48 covering “meals and beverages, official meetings”.
The commission noted that the transactions were either “inappropriate to be considered as representation expenses within the purview of the account’s description, such as media representation, gifts and raffle prizes” while “meals, beverages and official meetings were not duly supported with the required documents.
The commission recommended that submission of documents as proof of the regularity and necessity of the expenditures be required.