MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang’s communications office paid P5.58 million for commissioned surveys in 2012 – the year before the midterm elections – according to the latest report released by the Commission on Audit (COA).
It was the single biggest item in the 2012 expense report of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO). It accounted for a whopping 26.71% of the P20.88-million increase in the office’s budget for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).
It was also an entirely new item in the MOOE since the agency reported no such expense in its 2010 and 2011 expense breakdowns.
COA disclosed that the money went to private survey firms Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, and was spent to “assess the public’s perspectives on national issues, the performance of the administration, and other related issues.”
“This is in line with the function of the agency to control and supervise the conduct of market research, monitoring public opinion and gathering, use and analysis of other relevant data as may be necessary,” COA noted.
Sought for comment, PCDSPO chief Secretary Ramon “Ricky” Carandang told Rappler, “My office subscribes to the regular surveys of Pulse and SWS. It’s part of my function to know and understand public opinion.”
Asked why there was no such item in his office’s 2010 and 2011 expenditure reports – fueling speculations that the surveys were election-related – he simply said: “Because my office wasn’t a subscriber then.”
Also in 2012, the PCDSPO saw its MOOE balloon to P38.52 million, from P17.64 million in 2011 – an increase of over 118%.
The agency’s 2012 State of Income and Expenses also showed that payment for “consultancy services” also went up by 119% to P4.44 million, from P2.02 million the year before. The Other Professional Services item soared 79% to P4.49 million, compared to just P2.51 million in 2011.
While declaring the two-fold consultancy expense necessary, the COA report was vague on details and simply stated that the increase of “more than 100 percent of last year’s balance was due to the hiring of additional consultants necessary in performing the various functions of the agency.”
The same tone was used in explaining the upsurge of Other Professional Services, saying the expense covered work “not otherwise included in specific professional services…to perform key functions of the agency.”
No detail was provided on how many consultants and extra professionals were hired, on what terms, or what their specific jobs were, and for how long.
Curiously enough, PCDSPO required additional manpower and expertise even after its Personal Services budget went up from P16.18 million to P19.53 million year-on-year.
This increase was held to be essential “due to the hiring of additional staff to perform the expanding workload of the Agency.” – with a report from Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler.com