Ignore COA reports? Solon says public has right to know about gov't expenditures
Posted at Aug 17 2021 10:51 AM | Updated as of Aug 17 2021 11:23 AM
MANILA - Government agencies should not ignore findings by the Commission on Audit because taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said state auditors are the watchdogs of public coffers. "Therefore, hindi puwede na i-ignore 'yun (it should not be ignored)," he said in a TeleRadyo interview.
He noted government agencies flagged by COA must explain the deficiencies or face charges "because this will lead to malversation of funds and corruption."
"A COA report should be addressed immediately and not to be ignored," added Rodriguez, also second district representative of Cagayan de Oro City.
In a public address late Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte told members of his Cabinet to just follow his orders and ignore the reports by COA.
He also told COA to stop flagging government transactions and publishing its reports as it would taint agencies with "corruption by perception".
"Stop that flagging, God damn it. You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person that you are flagging," he said.
For Rodriguez, government officials have the responsibility to let the public know how their taxes are being spent.
"With due respect to the President, itong mga (these) findings are public documents and therefore, everybody should know, especially the public. (These are) government funds ito. You have the right to information under the Constitution," he said.
NO AUTHORITY TO STOP COA
In a statement Tuesday, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said Duterte had no authority to stop COA from performing its constitutional mandate of "safeguarding the utilization of public funds and making public the results of its audit."
"Duterte conveniently forgot that COA is an independent constitutional commission, which is not accountable to the President," he said.
"The right of the people to information cannot be negated and quashed by invoking that officials should be shielded from 'corruption by perception,'" he added.
Lagman noted that COA’s audit reports were thoroughly reviewed and documented.
If government agencies are found to have unspent or misspent their respective budgets, he said it was COA's obligation to disclose it.
"Instead of immobilizing COA, Duterte must order the prosecution of the responsible officials of the agencies flagged by COA and accord them due process," Lagman said.
COA has flagged various deficiencies in the Department of Health's management of COVID-19 funds worth P67.3 billion, of which around P66 billion was attributed to non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations.
The health department has denied corruption allegations, saying the amount was fully accounted for. Duterte also said it was "impossible" to steal P67.3 billion.
But for Rodriguez, "Well, to me, everything is possible."
Teleradyo, Rufus Rodriguez, Rodrigo Duterte, Commission on Audit, COA, Department of Health, DOH, COA findings, COA reports, COVID19 funds