Auditors flag CHR seminars at hotels, unliquidated cash advances
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for P3.6 million worth of cash advances which are still unliquidated, and for spending P5.4 million on trainings and seminars at hotels inside and outside Metro Manila.
Officers and employees have P1.066 million worth of unliquidated cash advances, while special disbursing officers have P2.565 million worth of unliquidated cash advances.
The cash advances were used for either local and foreign travels, or special projects.
Officers from CHR Eastern Visayas were issued P122,558 worth of cash advances despite the non-liquidation of previous cash advances.
At CHR Zamboanga Peninsula, cash advances were released to employees who were not bonded, "which may result [in] possible loss of government funds," said the auditors.
COA recommended that the CHR impose sanctions on officials who "neglect obligations in handling cash advances in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations."
Trainings at hotels
The CHR also spent P5.404 million for trainings and seminars which were held at hotels, where rooms were also booked for participants, instead of just function rooms.
"CHR could have minimized the incurrence of substantial amount of training expenses had it either provided training venues within the office premises or utilized available resources and government facilities; or had the agency held the 20 seminars/workshops on a non-residential (live-out) basis," COA said.
According to COA's list, the CHR held 13 trainings at hotels and other venues within Metro Manila.
Of those 13, there were 10 held at venues in Quezon City. The CHR office is located along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
For finance and administrative capability enhancement training, the CHR spent P557,575 for a 3-day seminar at Brentwood Suites in Quezon City for 64 participants, all of whom are from the central office.
"Athough the training venues/hotels were located within Metro Manila, central office (CO) participants were likewise booked in the hotels; when most of these participants have residences in Metro Manila," the auditors said.
In its response to COA, the CHR said its multipurpose hall could not be used for training because the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB) was occupying the space.
"It was mentioned during the exit conference that the matter will be taken up with the commission en banc to ensure the provision of training rooms within the CHR premises to minimize the cost of training expenses," said COA.
'We value every peso'
CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, in a statement on Monday, July 9, reiterated that "limitations" in office space have made it "a challenge" for the CHR to hold trainings within its "old, condemned building."
"The lowest budget for one of the  trainings accounted by the report amounts to P87,000. We further stress that all of these expenses went through the regular procurement rules and procedures of the government, and trainings were kept to [the] basic minimum expense," she said.
According to De Guia, the CHR also uses "government facilities, such as UP Hotel and DAP, whenever possible," for its activities. New spaces have also been recently created, she said, and are already "well-utilized" by the commission.
"Being one of the least funded government bodies, we assure the public that we value every peso entrusted to us, especially at a time when the promotion and protection of human rights in the country continue to be a challenge," De Guia said.
The CHR was almost stripped of its 2018 budget at the House committee level of the budget deliberations, but the funding was restored eventually. It was seen as an attack on human rights in the Philippines. – Rappler.com