MANILA, Philippines – Foreign travels in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in 2018 worth P7.128 million were found to have violated audit rules, the Commission on Audit (COA) said.
“Airplane tickets for foreign travel amounting to P7,128,374.84 were not supported by complete documents like three quotations of travel agencies or its equivalent among others, contrary to Section 4 of PD No. 1445, The State Audit Code of the Philippines and Section 18.104.22.168 of COA Circular 2012-001,” the COA said in its 2018 audit report of the OSG, published on its website on Monday, May 20.
President Rodrigo Duterte has always ranted against excessive travels of government officials and even signed an executive order against junkets.
According to audit rules, foreign travels of government officials must be bidded out to at least 3 travel agencies that should submit quotations.
The agency with the lowest calculated quotation wins the contract.
“However, audit of the disbursement vouchers (DVs) and its supporting document revealed that foreign travel amounting to P7,128,374.84 (Annex C) lacked the three quotations while some purchases were not supported by abstract of quotations,” state auditors said.
The COA also observed that reimbursements did not attach price quotations.
If they resorted to an alternative mode of procurement, auditors said there was no approval by the head of the agency, or Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The OSG has submitted “documentary requirements to support the three quotations for airfare and travel insurance expenses,” the COA noted.
The COA has no prosecutorial powers. It can only assess if the purchases can be disallowed, meaning, a refund of the costs will be ordered – a process that may take a while.
Flagged office supplies
The COA also flagged P5.5-million worth of ordinary supplies and equipment which were purchased through an alternative mode.
Auditors said the purchases were made without necessary postings on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (Philgeps), a public database where all government projects should be bidded out.
This violates the procurement law or Republic Act 9184, said COA.
In the exit conference, the OSG management committed to comply with the Philgeps requirement.
In 2017, the OSG was flagged for Calida’s excess allowances that amounted to P7.46 million.
Calida received a total of P8.37 million in allowances in 2017, but the COA considered the P7.46 million as excess because it was more than 50% of his annual salary.
That year, Calida became the first Solicitor General in years to land in the top 5 highest paid government officials. – Rappler.com