By Christina Erbon


The 2021 audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) has highlighted issues in fund utilization issues in the Office of the President (OP) and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo.

The COA has questioned the Office of the President (OP) about the improper billing of the costs for major Kalayaan Hall repairs and three grand wooden chandeliers in the Palace.

The unused roof tiles for Kalayaan Hall amounted to P157,920, which was not deducted from the total cost of P15.344 million for fixing and replacing Kalayaan Hall's roof tiles from 2020 to 2021.

As for the repair of three grand chandeliers in the Palace, P11.602 million, P8.498 million, and P3.104 million were recorded in the repairs and maintenance account.

"The cost incurred for the repair of Kalayaan Hall and the restoration of the grand wooden chandeliers are considered major repairs and betterment since it prolonged the useful life and the service potentials of both properties," the COA stated, adding that while the OP can charge the repairs and maintenance account for minor repairs, major repairs must be added to the item's carrying amount and should be depreciated over its remaining life.

In response, the OP management has subsequently agreed to the state auditors' advice to submit an adjusting entry on the significant repairs to reflect the correct balances of the impacted accounts.

Meanwhile, the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) received a total of P52.999 million in funding through the National Security Council. However, according to the COA's audit report, only P19.553 million was liquidated as of 2021.

'Leni's office flagged for funding test kits, private lawyers'

On the other hand, COA noted that the OVP had realigned the COVID-19-related projects to be funded by the Survey, Research, Exploration, and Development (SRED) budget last year.

COA stated that there was no urgent need for it as the COVID-19 antigen test kits, costing a total of P9.9 million, were used 2 to 8 months after being delivered — indicating that there was not an immediate need for the emergency purchase.

"While the budget may not have been utilized for its original intended purpose, its actual utilization has achieved a substantial and far more reaching benefit during the pandemic," the OVP defended.

COA added that the OVP could have extended the funding for discontinuation to finance other urgent projects, potentially saving a significant amount of money, if not for the market's increased availability and price decline of antigen test kits.

The OVP responded that the 17,350 antigen test kits purchased, which cost P7.807 million, were planned for the Swab Cab project launch.

The office also noted that they purchased the supplies before the DOH modified the instructions for kits focusing on screening and identification of likely causes, requiring modifications to Swab Cab's site selection.

Additionally, auditors found that the OVP's hiring of private lawyers violated COA and Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) regulations.

“In view of the lack of written conformity and acquiescence of the solicitor general and the written concurrence of COA, and despite having legal officers, payments made to the legal consultant are considered irregular and unnecessary expenditures," COA said.

Furthermore, according to the audit team, the OVP had already established a Legal Affairs Division (LAD) as part of its attempts to fortify the office. Therefore, there was no need for it to employ a legal consultant.

But according to the OVP, they were prompted to hire lawyers for the Angat Buhay program, since OP under Duterte did not respond to such requests for policy, advocacy, development, and regulatory viewpoints in addition to a legal one.

The COA, however, rejected the reasoning, declaring that individuals who approved the payments should deny the consultant’s compensation between January 2020 and July 2021 and that those individuals who supported the fees should be held accountable for the disallowance.

Edited by Khezyll Galvan