Gatekeeper of the government’s finances, the Commission on Audit (CoA) should be reformed to primarily remove the vestiges of the past, which allowed political vendetta to thrive and ensured the use of government resources for partisan ends.
CoA veterans noted the mechanisms, which the tandem of Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan and Commissioner Heidi Mendoza crafted to launch the selective Special Report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund 2007-2009, are still in place and much in use under the current CoA administration of chairperson Michael Aguinaldo.
One of the senior accountants, Art Besana, recounted that on 27 April 2011, then newly appointed CoA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza proclaimed before a World Bank Institute Public Forum in Washington DC that was telecast worldwide that “the Commission on Audit is putting in place mechanisms to examine the pork barrel allocations of members of Congress to bring transparency to a process that has been mired in corruption almost from its inception.”
Mendoza was talking about the Citizens Participatory Audit (CPA), which was accepted worldwide, but was manipulated Philippine style.
The CPA mechanism was promoted by the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions and the United Nations Board of Auditors, but the standard versions assure independent, objective, non-partisan audit practices to insure justice, peace, transparency and accountability in the audit exercise.
CoA auditors said both supreme audit bodies prohibit “populist demagoguery,” which makes use of prejudices, false claims and promises to gain favors from those in power.
Besana noted, for instance, that the UN Board of Auditors, in Goal 16 of its 2030 Agenda for inclusive societies for sustainable development, stated that the process should promote “just, peaceful access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
Senior auditors who represent the best minds in CoA did not consider the PDAF Special Report based on the scheme introduced by the Tan-Mendoza tandem as being within accepted auditing standards.
The serious flaws in the report, according to senior auditors, were:
• It was released without the approval of the audit commission as a collegial body;
• The audit program was prepared by only one person;
• Audit planning was participated in by civil society groups and media in accordance with the mechanism of the Tan-Mendoza tandem;
• The 400-page final audit report was unconstitutional because it did not contain any disallowance;
• The 6,000 notices of disallowance released months after the release of the final audit report were unconstitutional and without any legal basis; and,
• Adverse audit findings were selective and released prematurely on different dates in violation of auditing rules and regulations.
“In short, the audit did not observe the audit process. Auditing is the framework of due process and the deviation in audit process is deviation in due process, which ultimately is an injustice,” according to Besana.
What happened in 2013 when the CoA Special Report on the PDAF was released should be viewed in the context of the overall scheme of then President Noynoy Aquino of persecuting all those who he considers as opponents of Daang Matuwid (Straight Path), which translates to the Liberal Party.
Remove the yellow vestiges and a credible CoA emerges, according to the senior auditors.
At the Department of Budget and Management such yellow imprints were quietly removed upon the assumption of President Rodrigo Duterte. It is now up to CoA to do the same.