COA: Ilocos Norte gov't illegally hired private lawyers as consultants
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) found that the Ilocos Norte provincial government illegally hired private lawyers as legal consultants in 2018.
In its report released on April 30, COA said the move violated Circular No. 98-002, which states that government agencies and local government units cannot use public funds to pay for the services of a private legal counsel or law firm.
The Ilocos Norte provincial government said that the hiring was done to provide assistance to its legal officer.
"A provincial legal officer is constantly being confronted with voluminous workload and demands," it explained, adding that the expense was reasonable.
COA, however, said that state auditors could not find proper justification. It recommended that the local government put a stop to the services.
"The team could not find any valid reason/s to show that the legal services provided by these consultants could not be avoided or was justified under exceptional circumstances, as the province already has a legal officer," COA pointed out.
"We recommended that management discontinue the hiring of legal consultants...otherwise payments thereof should be disallowed in audit."
Government offices who want to get the services of a private law firm should first get permission from the Office of the Solicitor General or the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. Written concurrence from COA is also required. – Rappler.com