Kickbacks are what they live for
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2014 - 12:00am

Why do people run for public office nowadays? Do you really believe they still have the compassion to lead and serve? Sad to say, only a few are sincere. Majority are there for the money. In short, many public officials are fueled by kickbacks. They thrive on government funds. They depend on it for a living. Isn’t it quite obvious?

Almost all government projects follow an internal protocol of getting kickbacks that have already become a normal part of the system. I do not understand why the Department of Budget and Management and the Commission on Audit are turning a blind eye in several instances to these anomalies. No one is stopping the corruption going on. No one is even checking or controlling the cost of purchases or project costs. Shouldn’t all projects be scrutinized so that the government can save? The BIR keeps on raising our taxes (to collect more funds for government spending) while government does not even practice prudence.

The so-called ‘protocol’ for a total expense package of a government project (in both local and national levels) for instance is said to be divided amongst: (1) the contractor (construction expense); (2) the mayor and the vice mayor; (3) the city councilors; (4) other city officials; and (5) COA representatives not to mention the governor, the congressman and the other departments involve in approving various permits. Different municipalities may vary but more or less this has been a standard practice. Mind you the construction expense is not really as expensive as reflected in the financial statement, in most cases. Kickbacks are what make government purchases or projects more expensive.

Everyone is in cahoots in eating the ‘pie’. As we have observed in the Janet Napoles’ and the pork barrel scam cases which even include a list of ‘mighty’ senators. Susmariosep! Now you know how these scumbags are able to build mansions, travel, buy luxury cars, helicopters and jet planes. How can a government official afford the lifestyle of the rich and famous with their official salaries? The law in this country is even too weak to arrest them because most of our legislators are either part of the scam or just too scared to expose the irregularities they see. Of course those involved don’t want to be caught!

Our government is spending our money profusely like water running down the drain. Taxes are collected from such a small population of working class and middle class in this country. The rich and the big companies try to curve their taxes and they too can get away in tax haven. What a pity! Last week Congress approved the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015, including P4.7 billion in errata or changes. Who’s paying? The taxpayers. No wonder we feel poor. A big chunk of our hard earned money is taken away from us and we don’t even feel good about the services rendered by government.

Anyway, going back to the new government budget, it seems that the queries made by Bayan Muna Party List Representative Colmenares on the proposed budget errata submitted by the DBM amounting to P13.6 billion fell on deaf ears. Why don’t other congressmen question such a big budget? I heard that part of the errata or changes include congressional insertions to make the congressmen ‘happy’. Sanamagan!

In the proposed errata the DILG will receive P423 billion; P8 billion contingent fund for the Bangsamoro; P3.281 billion for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit; and P1.6 billion for the Department of Finance –Bureau of Customs. The errata also identified the additional requirements of various agency programs such as the P53.5 million for the forest land management project for loan proceeds of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as P299 million for expenses of market and product development of the Department of Tourism, and P92.7 million for the establishment of the Department of Trade and Industry Go Negosyo Centers. The question is who will verify the numbers? Who will check the overpriced projects or purchases even before the money is spent? Who can we trust – DBM and COA?

Why isn’t the Commission on Audit able to do its job of investigating and checking in various parts of the country? What are the COA repersentatives doing? Are they sitting on the job? But even before that, why can’t the DBM review the project or purchase expenses before they release the money? Why don’t they go a step further to check where the money is actually going? Is it because those releasing the funds and those auditing the expenses are part of the ‘syndicate’?

Under COA Circular No. 95-006, issued pursuant to PD 1445, or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, COA is no longer on pre-audit but on post audit basis. This explains why most cases of alleged corrupt practices reported in the past years like the P728 million fertilizer scam have been discovered by COA only after a post audit was done. The same holds true on the ZTE deal, the PDAF, DAP, and the numerous anomalous transactions done at the very noses of COA officers. Even lifestyle checks are done only after a complaint is filed against a government official. Susmariosep!

What is stopping COA from doing a pre-audit of government expenditures when most of it especially those under the national budget can really be pre-audited? Conducting a pre-audit will make those thinking of earning a buck or two from a government transaction think twice. Besides aren’t the same supporting documents presented during a post audit, the very same documents available even prior to payments or consummation of transactions? All COA auditors are accountants. As such, they should know how to look for irregularities when they conduct an audit. Why can’t they see these irregularities on the onset? Perhaps they have adapted a culture of blindness: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Reports say that COA went through the P2.2 billion pork barrel funds allegedly handled by Napoles with a fine-tooth comb. Current COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan also ordered a special audit in 2011 of the agrarian reform department’s use of the Malampaya Fund which amounted to P900 million. But, no audit order was done on the P8.6 billion Aquino gave to the ARMM and the DAP funds. How’s that for selective ‘auditing’?

I really doubt if our Chief Accountants and Internal Auditors can do their jobs conscientiously. They also seem to be helpless and powerless when it comes to auditing big time deals. Even COA Commissioners do not dare raise the red flag when high ranking government officials are involved in corruption. So, who else will do the work of detecting and preventing the consummation of these anomalous transactions? I still believe that, without pre-audit, there is no way an internal check can be done in government disbursements. The COA Circular No. 95-006, issued pursuant to PD 1445 weakens its authority to do internal controls of government expenditures to fight corruption. Was this done intentionally? Thus, the saga of corruption in this country continues. Susmariosep!

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