Editorial: COA report only a sneak preview-A A +A
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
TEACHERS, especially in higher education, know this warning well: Publish or perish.
It’s a warning that most government agencies would be wise to learn.
The Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on the uses of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel funds stretches 453 pages. But it’s not the whole story, COA said.
State auditors wrote that they repeatedly asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for documents on PDAF releases from 2007 to 2009, the brief period that the special audit covered.
The audit process took two years and three months.
Despite all that time, COA reviewed only 58 percent of all PDAF releases in those years. The audit covered less—about 32 percent only—of releases for another fund, the Various Infrastructure including Local Projects (VILP), which was for “hard” projects.
Three executive agencies, four government corporations, nine cities and five provinces also came under scrutiny in their use of the PDAF. None of the local governments covered are in Cebu or the Visayas.
What kept the DBM from providing more documents, the audit report does not say. Maybe its record-keeping system could stand some modernizing.
It’s tempting to speculate that certain strings were pulled to keep some records beyond COA’s reach. (To be fair, its online listing of PDAF releases since 2009 is a good effort.) But that’s what happens when important information is kept veiled.
Speculation sets in.
Stories about how untold billions in public funds allegedly lined the pockets of ghost non-government organizations (NGOs) and senators are breathing new life into the campaign for a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
For more than 15 years now, FOI supporters have been trying to get more government agencies to adopt a habit of publishing. And by publishing we mean useful information, such as how much an agency or local government received in public funds in a year, where these funds were spent, and what inroads were made in solving public problems.
Newsletters crammed with photos of government officials are not what we need to create a culture of openness in public institutions.
Publish or perish. Public agencies or local governments that fail to inform will only doom themselves to irrelevance and mistrust.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 18, 2013.