COA vows scrutiny of pandemic response funds to avoid fraud

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 14 2020 03:12 PM

MANILA — As government agencies spend billions on various COVID-19 response programs, the Commission on Audit (COA) has assured the public that state auditors are on the lookout for possible fraudulent activities.

In a statement posted on its website, the commission ensured transparency and accountability as discussed by officials in a webinar on the role of COA, as the government responds to threats posed by COVID-19.

COA Commissioner Roland Pondoc was the resource person at the webinar attended by participants from the agency’s Region IX office this month.

"Commissioner Pondoc said the Commission needs to give a strong message that people’s money will be watched closely and that the agency stands ready to make sure that as a nation, we heal and recover as one," the commission said in the statement.

Pondoc stressed that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, safety of audit and auditee staff are prioritized; digital audit technology will be utilized to continue audit operations remotely; audit trails on COVID-19 are secured through monitoring, documenting and analyzing government responses; and effective communication with key stakeholders is maintained.

For the post-emergency stage, Pondoc said the commission would take into account high-priority programs "in terms of materiality and risks" such as the Social Amelioration Program, stimulus packages, medical and food supplies distributed, as well as challenges such as missing audit trails, limited access to data and onsite physical verification.

"The Commissioner also observed audit of procurement should align with actions taken during the COVID-19 emergency, noting that the risk of fraud is always present but is elevated during emergency cases," the commission said.

The COA said Pondoc’s presentation during the webinar was sourced from a World Bank study on experiences of audit institutions in various countries which have handled epidemics and disasters.