Higher COA budget sought vs corruption
“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,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.
Higher COA budget sought vs corruption
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — State auditors should be equipped with all the necessary tools to fight corruption in government, which prompted Congress to increase the Commission on Audit (COA)’s 2021 budget by P1.3 billion.

“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,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional reforms, urged his colleagues to restore the P1.3 billion in maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) funds that were cut by the Department of Budget and Management from the original COA funding proposal.

“These decreases will seriously hamper the operations of COA,” Rodriguez said, noting that COA’s P651.5 million MOOE was reduced to P573.4 million while its CO request of P683.5 million was slashed by 686.4 percent to P86.9 million.

He said the COA had proposed an outlay of P13.575 billion for next year, but DBM reduced it by 3.55 percent to P13.57 billion, which is almost P500 million higher than this year’s P13.09 billion.

“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 P667.4 million, but their MOOE and CO were both drastically decreased,” Rodriguez said.

He said the COA’s proposed increase in local travel and operational expenses for 48 provincial satellite auditing offices was not considered.

While the COA has P13.09 billion for this year, a huge portion was categorized as “for later release” by the DBM due to the provisions of Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act 11469, he said.

These appropriations include P50 million in MOOE and P123 million in CO for a total of P173 million, he said.

“This categorization is unconstitutional because it is clear in the Constitution that COA’s ‘approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.’ A law cannot contravene the provisions of the 1987 Constitution,” Rodriguez said.

DepEd urged to partner with LGUs

The Department of Education should find ways in partnering with local government units (LGUs) nationwide, along with the country’s top telcos, so the distribution of learning modules for students will be much easier, an administration lawmaker has proposed.

“Teachers shouldn’t be made to travel long distances to deliver the modules. Without face-to-face classes, there should be better coordination between schools and communities on how students can learn best in the ‘new normal,’” Rep. Alfred Vargas said.

Vargas said LGUs down to the remotest and far-flung barangays, including the coastal and mountainous areas, can help teachers distribute learning modules to students.

And with more students logging online for classes, Vargas said DepEd also partnered with telcos and the Department of Information and Communications Technology to ensure stable internet connection during class hours.

“DepEd should find ways to bring down the cost of internet access for educational activities. It would be better if teachers and students can log on to online class portals for free so cost would no longer be a concern,” he said.

Vargas has been helping the youth cope with the challenges of blended learning. He used his entire salary from Congress for the month of September to buy tablets for needy students in Quezon City’s fifth district.

In a Facebook video uploaded last week, the senior administration lawmaker said the tablets were distributed to students who messaged him on social media for help in getting gadgets for blended learning.

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