Thursday, October 15, 2020

Solon wants to increase COA's 2021 budget by P1.3-B

  A LAWMAKER  at the House of Representatives on Thursday sought an increase in the 2021 budget of the Commission on Audit (COA) by PHP1.3 billion.   

In filing House Resolution 1275, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the COA initially had a proposed budget of PHP13.575 billion for next year but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reduced it by 3.55 percent.

Rodriguez noted that the agency’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) were significantly reduced, which could seriously hamper the operations of the audit body.

“While at first glance, it looks that the COA was given what they requested, a closer look would show that they were indeed given an increase in their personnel services (salaries) of PHP667.4 million, but their maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlay were both drastically decreased,” he said.

Rodriguez said COA sought PHP651.5 million in MOOE, which was cut by 13.61 percent to PHP573.4 million, while its CO request of PHP683.5 million was slashed by 686.4 percent to PHP86.9 million.

He urged the House to restore the PHP1.3 billion in MOOE and CO funds cut by the DBM from the original COA funding proposal.

Rodriguez also noted that the commission’s proposed increase in local travel and operational expenses for 48 provincial satellite auditing offices was not considered.

Aside from the proposed 2021 budget, he pointed out that a huge portion of COA’s PHP13.086-billion budget for this year was categorized as “for later release” by the DBM due to the provisions of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

These appropriations include PHP50 million in MOOE and PHP123 million in CO for a total of PHP173 million, Rodriguez said.

He argued that this categorization is “unconstitutional”, citing a constitutional provision that COA’s “approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.”

“A law cannot contravene the provisions of the Constitution,” Rodriguez said. “Considering the very vital role that the Commission on Audit plays in the fight against corruption, it is important that they are given the proper appropriations in their budget.” (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)