COA flags DOT for ‘extravagant’ spending

·2 min read
The Department of Tourism's (DOT)
The Department of Tourism's (DOT) "It's More Fumn in the Philippines" campaign logo superimposed on panoramic image view of El Nido Bay from Tataw Cliff in Palawan, Philippines. (Photos: DOT; El Nido – Getty Images)

The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Tourism (DOT) for the agency’s “irregular, unnecessary, unconscionable, excessive and extravagant” spending of P3.8 million in different hotels and restaurants in 2021.

State auditors, in its 2021 annual audit report, said that DOT veered away from the proper standards of the government when it comes to disbursement of funds.

In particular, COA flagged the contract signed by the Office of the Secretary (OSEC) and Grand Hyatt Manila in Taguig that’s worth P236,500, for 75 persons but only attended by 13 persons only.

“Conducting meetings/forums in luxury hotels results in spending unnecessary high cost of misrepresentation expense which is considered contrary to existing government thrust of judicious and prudent use of government funds,” COA said.

COA also found lapses in the discharge of P1.534 million of financial assistance to Pacific Asia Travel Association, like non-issuance of official receipts, inconsistencies on the dates of its supporting documents, and excessive disbursement of funds.

The state audit body also found out the DOT OSEC’s spending of a total of P544,450 for hotel accommodation and meals after their employees attended conferences at Joy-Nostalg Hotel & Suites Manila, Movenpick Resort and Spa Boracay, and Hilton Clark Sun Valley Resort.

Also included in the report is the DOT Region 1’s spending of P697,854 for the Ridge and Reef Travel Corridor Launching in Ilocos Norte, including a plated lunch at Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel costing P1,100 per person for 60 participants, and a canceled lunch reservation at Pannzian Beach and Mountain Resort.

The COA report also noted a whopping P49.270 million disbursement with delayed or non-submission of supporting documents, including payments for the salaries of job order and contractual employees under the OSEC and other regional offices.

“We recommend that DOT OSEC and [Regional Offices] concerned to submit the required documents to support the regularity and validity of transactions. Otherwise, [we] demand full refund of the amounts considered as irregular, unnecessary, unconscionable, excessive, and extravagant in nature,” said COA in the report.

A full copy of the audit report was submitted to the office of former Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on June 22, 2022.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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