COA seeks raps vs PCOO execs over ASEAN spending
Christina Mendez, Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has recommended the filing of criminal charges against officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) who will be found liable for the allegedly anomalous P38.8-million disbursements for the country’s hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in 2017.

Reacting to the COA report, the PCOO said its two undersecretaries and three other officials are now being investigated in relation to the questionable disbursements.

“We recommended that (PCOO) management investigate the award of contracts to suppliers without adherence to the provisions of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act and) file the appropriate charges against any erring officials... for taking particular action that favored a particular supplier/s,” the COA said its annual audit report posted on its website yesterday.

Based on the audit body’s report, a total of P38,807,125.40 of the PCOO’s disbursements for the rental of information technology (IT) equipment and vehicles as well as the procurement of several goods and services in connection with its role in the hosting of the ASEAN summit were violative of the provisions of RA 9184.

The PCOO was assigned to chair the Committee on Media Affairs and Strategic Communications (CMASC) for the ASEAN summit, in which it was tasked to facilitate media coverage and disseminate information to the public regarding ASEAN events.

IT equipment rental

For one, the COA said the government could have saved P964,872 had the PCOO opted to purchase brand new IT equipment at a cost of P3,074,268 instead of renting IT equipment for two to five months, which cost the government P4,039,140.

In a comment incorporated in the report, the PCOO explained that it had no choice but to lease the equipment as there was no budget allotted by Congress for the specific purpose of procuring IT equipment for the ASEAN events.

The PCOO informed the audit body that its secretary, Martin Andanar had issued two memoranda dated March 15 and April 4, 2018 ordering an investigation into the procurements questioned in the COA report.

The PCOO also maintained that “no splitting of contracts happened” rather, each purchase request was “processed separately and independently” in accordance with RA 9184.

Splitting of contracts

The COA said the PCOO also split the contracts for the purchase of various goods and services worth P27.503 million and rental of vans in the amount of P7.264 million to do away with public bidding and to circumvent spending limits, in violation of government procurement rules.

The audit body’s breakdown showed that procurement of goods including “delicacy bags,” handmade soap, medical kits, umbrellas, shirts and ASEAN jackets totaling P14.587 million was split into 19 purchase orders (POs) awarded to four suppliers; procurement of printed materials worth P8.510 million was split into 12 POs awarded to two suppliers; and procurement of internet services in the amount of P4.405 million was split into seven POs awarded to two suppliers. 

As for the rental of vans for the ASEAN events, the COA said all the eight POs totaling P7.264 million were awarded to single contractor, DLCL Transport.

The audit body said the splitting of contact for related items or transactions had already been declared as an “irregular expenditure” under Section 3.1 of COA Circular No. 2012-003 dated Oct. 29, 2012.

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