COA: P33 million disbursement to NTF-ELCAC unliquidated

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
COA: P33 million disbursement to NTF-ELCAC unliquidated
The photo of the Commission on Audit's office in Quezon CIty taken on Aug. 17, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the President (OP) under former chief executive Rodrigo Duterte still has P33.446 million in unliquidated fund disbursements to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in connection with his administration’s anti-insurgency campaign, the Commission on Audit (COA) said in its latest report.

Based on the COA’s 2021 annual audit report on the OP, the country’s chief executive allocated a total of P65.192 million for the operations of the NTF-ELCAC National Secretariat for 2021 in connection with the government’s “whole-of-nation approach” to end insurgency in pursuit of its peace agenda.

Of the allocated fund, however, only P52.999 million was actually transferred to the National Security Council (NSC) as the National Secretariat of the NTF-ELCAC.

The COA said of the transferred amount, only P19.553 million was liquidated as of Dec. 31, 2021, leaving an unliquidated balance of P33.446 million.

The COA did not elaborate in its report on the reason for the low liquidation of the fund transferred to NTF-ELCAC. The audit body also did not provide any recommendation to the OP to address the issue.

Former national security adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chairman Hermogenes Esperon Jr., however, gave assurance that last year’s funds were fully accounted for.

“We have liquidated all 2021 OP funds for NTF-ELCAC,” he said when asked yesterday about the COA report.

Esperon noted that as for NTF-ELCAC funds from January to June 2022, unreleased funds will form part of the budget of the new National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chair Clarita Carlos.

The NTF-ELCAC was created by Duterte through Executive Order No. 70 dated Dec. 4, 2018 to lead his administration’s implementation of a “whole-of-nation approach for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict affected areas.”

Meanwhile, in the same audit report, the COA recommended to the OP to coordinate with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) to address its low budget allocation for programs and activities related to Gender and Development (GAD).

The COA noted that for 2021, the OP only allocated P12.78 million for programs, projects and activities (PAPs) related to GAD which only accounted for 0.1561 percent of its total budget appropriation for the year amounting P8.186 billion.

The COA said this contravened the General Appropriations Act of 2021 and as well as the Joint Circular No 2012-01 issued by the PCW, National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) requiring all government agencies to allocate at least five percent of their annual budget appropriation to GAD-related PAPs in compliance with the Magna Carta of Women.

The submitted GAD Plan and Budget (GPB) of OP for Calendar Year 2021 was P12,780,440, representing only 0.1561 percent of the total appropriations of P8,186,079,000. “Said budgeted amount was way below the required five percent of the total appropriation of OP,” the COA said.

The COA said this prompted the PCW to not endorse the OP’s GPB to the DBM even if the OP submitted its plan on time.

The COA said an inquiry with the OP’s Gender and Development Focal Point System (GFPS) revealed that some of the OP’s allocations for GAD-related programs included intelligence and confidential funds.

“The GFPS emphasized that the appropriations of OP include intelligence and confidential funds which could not be attributed to GAD because expenditures relative thereto is with utmost confidentiality,” the COA said.

“We recommended and [OP] management agreed to coordinate with the PCW on how to address the issue on the five percent GAD budget for the intelligence and confidential funds component of the total budget of the OP,” it added. – Michael Punongbayan

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