DESPITE earlier recommendations from the Commission on Audit (COA), the Provincial Government has yet to return its unused Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) balance of P40.7 million to the national treasury.
In their 2018 annual audit report, state auditors found P40,769,414.12 worth of unutilized PDAF, which has been idle in the Province’s treasury for five to 12 years “despite the lack of basis or authority to use them for future projects.”
Some P327,669,351.45 worth of PDAF was released to the Provincial Government between 2008 to 2013.
Of the amount, P286,899,937.33 has been utilized.
Given the PDAF’s actual nature as a trust fund, state auditors said it was intended for priority development programs and projects identified for the specific years when these were released.
“Management’s (Province) inaction in applying the funds to its intended purposes for five to 12 years is an indication that the funds were no longer needed. To further allow the funds to remain idle in its treasury or to temporarily place them in savings or time deposits would only defeat the purposes for which the funds were appropriated,” the audit report said.
These findings were brought up to the Province through Audit Observation Memorandum 2019-001 (2018), dated Jan. 29, 2019.
During the exit conference, then Provincial Legal Officer Orvi Ortega said the Capitol’s decision to withhold the funds was based on the Supreme Court (SC) decision that funds already released to the agencies were no longer covered by the injunction.
On Nov. 19, 2013, the SC declared the entire 2013 PDAF Article as well as all Congressional Pork Barrel provisions similar thereto as “unconstitutional.”
But with COA’s audit observation, Ortega, at that time, agreed to write to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to ask for authority to use the funds for future projects.
“We recommended that Management (Provincial Government) pursue its intention of requesting the DBM for specific authority to utilize the funds. Otherwise, in the absence of an express authority, we recommended that Management finally liquidate all PDAF funds and return to the national treasury the unspent balance of P40,769,414.12 so that these can be appropriated for more important and urgent programs and projects of the government,” wrote the state auditors.
In its 2017 audit report, COA had raised the same recommendation to the Provincial Government.
State auditors had found that P41.7 million worth of unutilized PDAF downloaded to the Province since 2007 had not been reverted to the national treasury despite the 2013 SC decision. (RTF)