In his continued tirade against the Commission on Audit (COA), President Rodrigo Duterte asked who will audit the COA? Well, it is just like asking who will Ombudsman the Ombudsman? In his weekly, “Face the Nation” TV program, the President continued to lambast the COA for coming up with adverse findings and deficiencies on the expenditures of the various government agencies under the executive department, especially the Department of Health (DOH) when expenditures are still going on amid the pandemic.
During his public address, the chief executive said he cannot determine who audits the country’s auditing arm. “Tell me, I have been trying to figure out in this democratic setup. Who audits COA?” the President asked.
I don’t know if that was a joke or he was serious when he said that when he will be elected Vice President in next year’s elections, he will volunteer to audit COA. The President has been hitting COA for its reports that cited deficiencies in the spending, contracts and financial management by various government agencies particularly after it flagged the DOH in the handling of the P67 billion Covid-19 response funds.
I said maybe the President was just joking because, for sure, being a lawyer, he knows the functions and duties of the Vice President under our 1987 Constitution. Auditing COA is not part of the VP’s duties based on Article V11 (Executive Department). Although, COA is a constitutional body, but it submits its report to the President and Congress.
Section 2 (1), Article 1X-D (The Commission on Audit) of the 1987 Constitution states: “‘The Commission on Audit (COA) shall have the power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenues and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned of held in trust by, or pertaining to, the Government, or any of its subdivision, agencies or instrumentalities, including government-owned and -controlled corporations with original charters, and on a post-audit basis.”
“(a) constitutional bodies, commissions and other offices that have been granted fiscal autonomy under this Constitution; (b) autonomous state colleges and universities, (c) other government-owned and -controlled corporations and other subsidiaries and (d) such non-governmental entities receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly from or through the Government which are required by law or granting institution to submit to such audit as a condition of subsidy or equity.
“However, where the internal control system of the audited agencies is inadequate, the Commission may adopt such measures, including temporary or special pre-audit, as are necessary and appropriate to correct the deficiencies. It shall keep the general accounts of the Government and, for such period as may be provided by law, preserve the vouchers and other supporting papers pertaining thereto.”
While in Section 4: “The Commission shall submit to the President and Congress, within the time fixed by law, an annual report covering the financial condition and operation of the Government, its subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and -controlled corporations and non-governmental entities subject to the audit, and recommend measures necessary to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. It shall submit such other reports as may be required by law.”
COA is the watchdog of government funds. And based on its functions, it appears to be a “kontrabida” (villain) of government agencies involved in questionable dealings and with deficiencies in their spending. COA, like any other government agencies, has their own resident auditor that will also audit their expenditures. COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza explained that resident auditors are tasked to audit COA officials. These officials are also at risk of disallowance. These resident auditors are strict and provide no leeway even to COA officials.
If public officials and government agencies for that matter are free from corruption and wrongdoing, they have nothing to be afraid of COA. Only those corrupt government officials are afraid of COA. Its adverse findings may be a cue for an independent investigation to determine any anomaly. Its audit reports are made public in the name of transparency. So, who’s afraid of COA?