Pricey napkins, infinity pool: Palace vows sackings if COA-flagged funds misspent

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2021 04:31 PM

Video courtesy of PTV 


MANILA — Officials will be sacked if proven that they misused public funds that government auditor had flagged, Malacañang said on Thursday. 

The Commission on Audit recently questioned the P1.2 million worth of sanitary napkins and hygiene kits that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) purchased from a hardware store. 

State auditors also flagged the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for the P10.835-million infinity pool and additional rooms at its office. 

"Lahat po ng nakikipag-ugnayan sa ahensya... wala pong kaduda-duda, ginagamit sa tama po ang pondo kasi ‘yan po ang marching order ng Presidente," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Kung meron talagang ebidensya, sibak, sibak, sibak po ‘yan. ‘Wag po kayong mag-alala," he said in a press briefing.

(All agencies coordinating with my office, there is no doubt that the funds are being used properly because that is the marching order of the President. If there is really evidence, there will be sacking, sacking, sacking. Do not worry.)

The COA reports, he said, are not yet final and agencies would get the chance to explain. 

"Sabi po ng OWWA, meron naman po silang unqualified opinion na ang OWWA people fulfilled their fiscal responsibilities for 99.9 percent of the time in fiscal year 2020," said Roque. 

(OWWA said they have unqualified information, that OWWA people fulfilled their fiscal responsibilities for 99.9 percent of the time in fiscal year 2020.)
As for the PPA, Roque said he has repeatedly tried to call its general manager Jay Daniel Santiago, who did not respond. 

"Nais ko pong depensahan ang kaniyang infinity pool. Pero kung hindi niya po ako sasagutin, wala po akong magagawa," he said, adding that he has consulted with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on alternatives to reach the ports authority.

(I want to defend his infinity pool. But if he does not answer me, I can do nothing.) 

The COA has also raised concern that several agencies, like the agriculture, health, and transportation departments, failed to fully use their budget to promptly provide pandemic assistance to various sectors. 

"Iyong mga initial observation, nasasagot po 'yan ng mga ahensya," Roque said, adding this was what President Rodrigo Duterte experienced when he was still mayor. 

(Agencies are able to answer initial observations.)

"Sa ngayon po, ang aking advice, cool muna po tayo dahil itong puntong ito, puwede pa pong sagutin at hintayin natin ang final report," the Palace spokesman added.

(For now, my advice is let's be cool because at this point, it can still be answered and let us wait for the final report.)

Duterte earlier this week scored the COA for a separate report saying "deficiencies" in the health department's management of around P67 billion led to "missed opportunities" to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 

The President said it was "pure bullshit" to assume there was corruption in the agency. He asked the COA, an independent constitutional body, to refrain from publicizing its reports. 

He also said he would reject any attempt at resignation by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.