Lawmakers ask COA for reports on intelligence funds

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2022 07:23 PM

MANILA — Two minority lawmakers have asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to furnish the House of Representatives a copy of its audit reports on confidential and intelligence funds.

Citing a joint circular issued in 2015, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the guidelines for entitlement, release, use, reporting, and audit of confidential and intelligence funds do not prohibit the disclosure of the audit report to Congress.

Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza added that Congress has oversight powers over funds it appropriated.

"That audit, if covered by secrecy, and could not be disclosed to this very house, which appropriates the funds, that makes the audit more imaginary and possibly not being done seriously and effectively. There is no way by which this House and the public can validate what has been audited," Lagman explained.

“Our right is to legislate and inherit in our role as legislators is our right of oversight,” Daza added.

But Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, COA’s budget sponsor at the House, said audit reports for confidential and intelligence funds are subject to confidentiality.

She cited section 5.3 of Joint Circular 2015-01, which outlines the procedures to protect against “unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive, confidential and intelligence matters." 

Instead, the 2022 General Appropriations Act requires agencies with confidential and intelligence funds to submit quarterly reports on their financial and physical accomplishments to the Office of the President and to Congress, Quimbo said.

But Daza countered: “It’s a memorandum and should not supersede a law or our Constitution which vests this House the right of oversight… What I think the previous member had requested is not prohibited by the GAA. It’s to augment the reports given to the House and to comply with the right of oversight of the House of Representatives."

Quimbo proposed that Congress consider legislating the opening of audit reports on confidential and intelligence funds. Daza said House minority lawmakers will support such legislation.

“This issue with confidential and intelligence funds, and opening audit reports, maybe we can once and for all consider legislation so that this can be allowed. But under current rules, we will have to make do with submissions to the Speaker of the House, as it is indicated in the current GAA. But yes, we can definitely improve upon the current situation. But I believe the best way forward is by way of appropriate legislation,” she said.

“Should the majority sponsor any legislation that will help in good governance, transparency and nation building, the minority will 100% support the majority in that vision,” Daza noted.

The House of Representatives concluded on Friday the proposed 2023 budget for COA.

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