An AOM contains observations that auditors want a particular government agency to explain, justify and substantiate with documents within 60 to 90 days.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires has found probable cause to file graft charges against former Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management, or PS-DBM, officials and Pharmally executives over Covid-19 purchases.
Graft buster Martires, thus, is seeking reforms to the procurement law amid the PS-DBM controversy.
The move of the Ombudsman vindicated the eight-part series of this column entitled: “PS-DBM is a catastrophe.”
The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to file graft charges against former PS-DBM undersecretary Lloyd Cristopher Lao, former PS-DBM procurement group director and now Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong, and other officials for their involvement in the irregular procurement of Covid-19 test kits from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.
The 14 August 2023 decision signed by Martires called for the filing of three graft charges against Lao, Liong, and PS-DBM Procurement Management Officer Paul Jasper de Guzman and Pharmally executives Mohit Dargani, Lincoln Ong, Huang Tsu Yen and Justin Garado.
Martires wants the PS-DBM abolished for, according to him, corrupt practices.
The PS-DBM was created during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to solve the problem of supplies but this was abused, Martires noted.
Now do not mistake an audit observation memorandum for an annual audit report.
An AOM contains observations that auditors want a particular government agency to explain, justify and substantiate with documents within 60 to 90 days. Hence, it is preliminary and tentative finding that may be explained in the course of an audit.
It is when the AOM is not satisfactorily explained or justified that the Commission on Audit considers it a finding and it would be put in the annual audit report, which is published and posted on the CoA website that is accessible to the public.
Martires made his unsolicited suggestion not to publish AOMs during a House hearing on his office’s budget, saying that it would prevent the public from prejudging those involved.
A regular provision in the yearly General Appropriations Act requires government agencies and state corporations to submit audited financial statements, annual audit reports and reports on the utilization of their funds to the Department of Budget and Management and Congress or to post these on their websites.
The AOM came to public and global prominence when a compilation of audit observation memoranda, including the findings on the P67-billion DoH funds for Covid-19, was released as the annual audit report on the accounts and financial operations of the Department of Health for calendar year ending 31 December 2020.
This drew an immediate public statement from former CoA commissioner Heidi Mendoza — from her exalted post as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations for Internal Control Oversight — saying that the CoA audit report had gone through the formal process of review and approval. This was reported by local media on 18 August 2021.
The report, “Heidi Mendoza: Release of CoA findings on P67-billion DoH funds not premature,” brought her to global prominence, showing indeed that she was a “glorified incompetent.”
The assertion globally by Mendoza that the release of AOMs as audit reports was not premature did not sit well with the rank and file of the CoA.
Retired and senior auditors of the commission opined that the sudden emergence of Heidi Mendoza, Grace Pulido Tan and Michael Aguinaldo, who refused to obey the president, and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon and Kiko Pangilinan who were the discordant choral voices against the government was part of a grand conspiracy to embarrass President Duterte before the president of the United States and the whole world and to destabilize his administration.
There are many other valid reasons why AOMs should not be published.
(To be continued)
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