COA wants P25.5-M reimbursed for Estrada-era office upgrades
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) ordered officials of the Office of the President (OP) during former president Joseph Estrada's time to reimburse the government P25.5 million.
COA said in a 5-page decision on Thursday, September 29, the money was improperly spent on renovations and upgrades to the President’s Briefing Room (PBR) in June 2000. The COA Commission Proper – made up of chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Isabel D. Agito – ordered the supervising auditor of the Office of the President to issue a notice of disallowance on the transaction.
The COA said P30 million was covered by the Contingent Fund approved by then-budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, and validly paid to contracotr Supreme Network Inc. A balance of P25.5 million, however, was improperly charged against the Organizational Adjustment Fund (OAF).
Records showed that in 2000, the OP under Estrada approved a P69.95 million project that would “convert the PBR into a Briefing Center, Flagship Projects Monitoring Center, Crisis Management Facility, Video Conferencing Telework, and Tri-Media Monitoring Facility."
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) sent out a special allotment release order (SARO) dated April 11, 2000 for P40 million, meant to cover the initial funding. A second SARO, issued by Diokno on May 17, 2000, for P30 million would cover the balance of the project cost.
The COA, however, said only the P30 million appropriation would be valid. The P40 million taken out of the OAF was meant to be used “for the operational requirements of new organizations or units." These include the National Council for Children’s Television, the Caraga Administrative Region, and the Partido Development Administration.
COA also questioned the awarding of the contract to Supremo Network Inc. The COA decision said the required public bidding was not undertaken for the project.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) affirmed the COA findings in an opinion dated May 27, 2011.
The OSG said the Supply and Installation Agreement was null and void for lack of competitive public bidding; the P40 million portion of the contract price was sourced from an inappropriate fund, and the agreement is unenforceable.
The COA's audit was spurred by a petition claim filed by the Supremo Network, which sought payment of its final billing in the amount of P8.451 million. The COA denied the contractor’s petition, however, resulting from a lack of merit because the bidding requirements were not complied with. – Rappler.com