STATE auditors asked a Cebuano-led office under Malacañang to stop hiring consultants whose tasks its regular employees can handle, to avoid demoralizing its staff or wasting taxpayers’ funds.
In its audit report for 2017, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) spent P4.09 million on consultants whose contracts did not state what they were expected to deliver.
The consultants’ curriculum vitae were not submitted; neither were their progress or final reports for their consultancy services, which violated COA Circular 2012-001, the audit report said.
“Practice prudency in spending government funds and discontinue the practice of paying exorbitant salaries to consultants,” COA said.
But Secretary Adelino Sitoy, who heads the PLLO, said he already terminated the services of the nine consultants before he received the COA report.
Sitoy said he terminated last December 2017 the services of five consultants: Alfredo Soreta Jr., Stanley Fernandez, Ederson Tapia (a professor of the University of Makati), Maricel Sabalones, and Alexis Lagtapon.
Four other consultants’ services were terminated effective Jan. 31, 2018: Maria Teresa Marquez, Atty. Carlo Abarquez, Atty. Edwin Sales, and Atty. Alfredo Bentulan.
Sitoy said that Marquez and Abarquez received P60,000 each per month but this was reduced to P40,000 each in January 2018. All the rest received P30,000 a month each.
The secretary said that he already submitted his explanation to COA, including a statement that it was impossible for the consultants to have duplicated functions because they were mostly lawyers assigned to handle different tasks.
He said he is now working with 53 regular PLLO employees, without consultants, despite the fact that his tasks now include working with the consultative committee to amend the 1987 Constitution.
At P81.72 million, the PLLO’s budget in 2017 was some P30 million larger than its budget for the year before. It reported a surplus of some P3.2 million at the end of last year.
Among COA’s findings that nine of the consultants, who received a combined P3.07 million in 2017, were hired using a contract of service, instead of the more detailed contract for consulting services. Auditors who reviewed these consultants’ accomplishment reports from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017 said they found that their tasks overlapped with what regular personnel were doing.
The PLLO is a 30-year-old office whose mandate includes generating “maximum support for the President and his legislative agenda.” (EOB)