COA flags Robredo’s OVP for ‘unnecessary’ hiring of private lawyers, consultants

·2 min read
Former Philippine vice president Leni Robredo speaks during the launch of her non-governmental organization
Former Philippine vice president Leni Robredo speaks during the launch of her non-governmental organization "Angat Buhay" (Uplifting Lives) at the headquarters in Quezon City, suburban Manila on July 1, 2022. The newly-established NGO aims to be the biggest in the country, and will focus on health, education, disaster relief and response. (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite getting unqualified opinion for three consecutive years, the Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged former Vice President Leni Robredo’s Office of the Vice President (OVP) for hiring legal consultants without prior approval from COA and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

According to the 2021 report, the OVP sought the services of private lawyer as legal consultant “without the written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General and concurrence of COA, and despite having legal officers, in violation of pertinent COA rules and regulations; thus, related payments are considered irregular and unnecessary expenditures.”

As stated in a COA circular released in 1986, paying a private lawyer without prior approval from the offices concerned may be disallowed and order its return.

In its record, COA said that the OVP hired one of the private lawyers as a “Consultant for Partnership Building and Policy Advocacy for Rural Development” with P76,907 monthly salary, while the two others were “Executive Consultant for Strategic Communications” and “Regulatory Compliance Consultant,” with a monthly salary of P161,231 each.

COA’s audit team also said that the OVP’s hiring of a private lawyer is unnecessary, as the office had already created its own Legal Affairs Division in 2020 “as part of its institutional strengthening efforts.”

“Inquiry also disclosed that OVP did not secure the required clearance from the solicitor general in the hiring of private lawyers for said consultancy services. It was gathered that, except for the Regulatory Compliance Consultant, the other two consultants have been hired by OVP since 2017,” said COA.

COA said that they had already issued a Notice of Disclosure on April 5, 2022, but Robredo’s OVP appealed it on May 30.

Meanwhile, Robredo said that after she took office, her office had already asked the Office of the President (OP) for the creation of third-level positions for a core group of policy advisers and consultants, but they never heard back from them.

Robredo has launched the Angat Buhay Foundation, an NGO aiming to focus on health, education, disaster relief and response, in a two-day street and art festival on July 1 and 2 in Quezon City.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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