COA flags DOT for P6.6 million unnecessary expenses
In its 2019 audit report on the DOT, the audit body said the agency’s Central Office (CO) and seven regional offices (ROs) have incurred “irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant and unconscionable expenditures,” as defined under COA Circular 2012-003.
STAR/File
COA flags DOT for P6.6 million unnecessary expenses
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Tourism (DOT) for P6.67 million worth of “unnecessary” and “extravagant” expenses that include hotel accommodations, rental of an exclusive resort, plane fares, gift checks and bonuses.

In its 2019 audit report on the DOT, the audit body said the agency’s Central Office (CO) and seven regional offices (ROs) have incurred “irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant and unconscionable expenditures,” as defined under COA Circular 2012-003.

“In the post audit of DOT CO and ROs financial transactions, disbursements totaling P6,678,878.07 were found not adhering to pertinent laws, rules and regulations or did not observe the appropriate standards, procedures and proper documentation to establish their propriety and validity,” the COA said.

The DOT’s CO was specifically called out for P3.579 million worth of gift checks supposedly distributed to “tourism private persons.” The audit body said the gift checks remain unliquidated as of the end of 2019.

“There was no evidence that the GCs were actually distributed to valid recipients with proper guidelines on the distribution. The recipients were considered invalid/illegal,” the COA said.

The DOT, in a reply incorporated in the audit report, vowed to make collection efforts from the recipients of the gift checks.

It also promised to take “due cognizance” of the recommendations in the audit report and will strictly adhere to the pertinent provisions of the law mentioned.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told The STAR yesterday that she has reminded the DOT offices to comply with accounting and auditing rules and regulations.

“Management has taken note of the findings and recommendations regarding the disbursements…and have reminded all offices in the department, including regional offices, to strictly comply with pertinent accounting and auditing rules and regulations,” she said.

“It is to be noted though that more than 50 percent of the subject expenditures were incurred before my stint as DOT secretary,” Puyat emphasized.

As for the rest of the expenditures under question, Puyat advised the offices to comply with the required documentation and provide the justifications necessary to substantiate their expenses and to avoid disallowance by the COA.

The COA report also said that DOT’s RO 7 (Central Visayas) disbursed a total of P1.203 million for supposed payment of salaries of its job order employees for May to June 2019. But these disbursements were not certified by authorized personnel or approved by the head of the agency in violation of Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code, the audit body noted.

It also flagged RO 11 (Davao) for spending P349,900 for rental of an exclusive resort, Island Buenavista, in the Island Garden City of Samal for just 14 officers who conducted a “Year-End Assessment and Strategic Planning.”

COA said the expenditure was “considered to be extravagant for such activity.”

RO 13 (Caraga) was found to have spent P334,413 for the plane fares of speakers and lecturers from Manila who supposedly conducted training and seminars in different places within the region.

The COA said the expenditure was “unnecessary” as “the activities could have been conducted by experienced and qualified personnel coming from various government agencies of Caraga Region.”

Also, the CO and RO of the Cordillera Administrative Region, RO 4-B (Mimaropa) and RO 7 were flagged for “excessive incurrence of accommodation expenses.”

The audit body said the four offices have incurred a total excess of P277,932 in their accommodation expenses as against the prescribed daily travel expenses (DTE) rate for hotel/lodging under Executive Order 77 or the “Prescribing Rules and Regulations and Rates of Expenses and Allowances for Official and Foreign Travels of Government Personnel.”

The CAR was also called out for “extravagant training expenses” and “uneconomical vehicle rentals” amounting to P296,067 and P78,600, respectively.

RO-9 (Zamboanga peninsula) was hit for spending P215,749 in travel expenses of employees under job order status who supposedly attended training and seminars.

“Their services are availed of for specific task which their capability to perform such task is already considered prior to their hiring. Thus, attendance of job orders/contract of service to seminars/ trainings are not necessary,” the COA said.

Other expenses flagged by the audit body were payment of midyear bonus to 23 Contract of Service (COS) employees of RO 6 (Western Visayas) despite “lack of basis” amounting to P108,273; excessive van rentals by RO 13 amounting to P106,400; unnecessary tour package expenses by RO 4-B amounting to P89,000 and “irregular” payment of professional fee by RO 9 amounting to P38,929. – Catherine Talavera

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