Despite leaving the Commission on Audit (CoA) for sometime to assume a favored post at the United Nations, Heidi Mendoza still exerts influence over the agency particularly among its officials who think along the same yellow wavelength.
The recent offensive against the Department of Health (DoH) with the use of an incomplete audit report to indirectly target President Rodrigo Duterte has the imprint of Mendoza.
In the same manner that the public expressed anger over the alleged misuse of huge pork barrel funds by senators and congressmen and directed their outrage against the leaders of both houses of Congress, the pubic likewise expressed indignation against the head of DoH, Secretary Francisco Duque III, over the report on DoH’s alleged mismanagement of P67 billion in Covid-19 response funds.
The opposition, with the aid of three yellow media allies with axes to grind against the Duterte administration, fueled the effort to stir a public outcry.
DoH officials claimed the release of the CoA report was premature and that the Health department was not able to explain its side prior to the release of the audit report. President Duterte supported Secretary Duque’s claim of premature release and publication of CoA’s audit observations.
Suddenly from nowhere came Mendoza. She said there was no premature release. Later, former CoA chair Grace Pulido-Tan said there was nothing wrong with the audit report.
Senior and retired state auditors said the audit report was crudely done and its release was ahead of proper review for correctness, propriety, completeness and accuracy. The side of Duque and his staff was not considered before circulating the report to the public and the critical media, which was a fatal undoing of CoA.
There was no doubt the approach used by the audit team assigned to the DoH was the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) with deviation from the standard required by the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions and the UN Board of Audit. Both world bodies prohibit auditors from engaging in populist demagogueries while administering the audit services in all government entities.
What resulted was a report that exhorted people to disobey and show disrespect to the head of state and his immediate subalterns simply because they do not observe the recommendations of a civil society group, which has no technical training in performing the audit work.
Auditors supported President Duterte, saying he was correct in questioning the report and unscrupulous auditors who are swayed by partisan interests.
They said it is clear that their exercise of the audit function was not in accordance with Section 54 of Presidential Decree 1445, which requires that: (1) The audit shall be performed by a person possessed with adequate technical training and proficiency as auditor; (2) In all matters relating to the audit work, the auditor shall maintain complete independence, impartiality and objectivity and shall avoid any possible compromise of his independence or any act which may create a presumption of lack of independence or the possibility of undue influence in the performance of his duties; and (3) The auditor shall exercise due professional care and be guided by applicable laws, regulations and generally accepted principles of accounting in the performance of the audit work as well as in the preparation of audit and financial reports
Senior accountants and CoA state auditors believe the CPA with deviation from the standard required by world bodies will result in confusion, conflict and chaos similar to what happened in the audit of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, and the DoH and the President have the right to stop it.
As early as 4 January 2020, a group of retired and senior state auditors wanted to recommend to the President the declaration of a revolutionary government, and among their reasons was that CoA has become an obstacle to his ability to accomplish his promises and high public expectations.
They sought the dismantling of the selective, partisan and unconstitutional audit mechanism discreetly installed by Mendoza called the CPA, both as a dissimulated audit program and as a political machinery.
Also, they demanded that CoA post an audit immediately on the money released through the Disbursement Acceleration Program of the previous administration to senators and congressmen before, during, and after the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and all the accounts and financial transactions of the flagship projects of the Aquino administration.
CoA, needless to say, must be cleansed of its partisan leaning or its yellow possession.