IN THE past couple of weeks, I noticed that the Commission on Audit (COA) appeared to have a good number of government agencies on their knees regarding the ways they were spending public funds. The problem is that there seems to be a conflict of perception between COA and the affected public agencies which are also conscious of their obligation to their respective constituents.
While COA has a responsibility to ensure that funds appropriated for certain projects or programs are truly spent for the intended purpose, the government agencies whose expenses COA is supposed to oversee are also concerned that public interest is not impaired. Thus, there is need for an expert balancing act here.
On the part of the COA, how can it order “just like that” Danao City officials to return to the government P64 million it advanced for its “bulk water project”?
The COA issued a notice of disallowance on the amount paid to a contractor “because the water project was not fully implemented.” The advance payment for mobilization expenses was not recouped.
On the other hand, Mayor Nito Durano, in a text message, “confirmed that his administration is bent on finishing the project” and the city is just waiting to finalize the contract with the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD). The bulk water project was his 2013 campaign promise.
Actually, the project was caught in the political rumpus in Danao last year. Before the 2010 elections, Durano signed a water supply contract with MCWD for P459 million. But further talks may be necessary in order to have a new contract approved by the Danao City Council.
But that is only one case where COA involvement could hamper public service.
There is the case of the Sandiiganbayan conviction of the municipal mayor of Aloguinsan town and seven other municipal officials. They were found guilty for having purchased construction materials worth P1 million without a bidding.
The anti-graft court’s First Division found Cynthia Moreno and her fellow respondents guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(e) Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The COA considers the absence of bidding in the P1 million purchase as irregular despite the fact that one of councilors “told the court that the town could not have held a bidding...because the town hall was padlocked on that day (being) a Saturday. That was a mitigating circumstance and should have been considered by COA, if not by the Court.
I am not opposed per se of the role of COA in the operation of government. COA is needed to check the unnecessary expense of the government. But rather than hastening the delivery of public service, this has hampered it instead. Those who run the agencies impose and impede no longer in the public interest but in the personal interest of the public official.
What we truly need is a public funds guardian with compassion for the public welfare.