House bloc wants COA chief out over audit errors

Angela Casauay
COA chair Grace Pulido Tan should have double checked the data. 'But what did she do? She called a press conference. She was crying when she damaged a person's reputation.'

ERRORS. Commission on Audit chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan showing the special audit report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which turns out to have at least 2 ‘clerical’ errors. Rappler.com file photo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – “She’s done irreparable damage.”

The independent bloc in the House of Representatives led by Leyte Rep Martin Romualdez on Tuesday, August 27, asked the chief government auditor to resign for releasing “unverified details” about the supposed misuse of the pork barrel that hurt Congress as an institution.

This was after the special report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), from 2007-2007, turned out to have:

* wrongly attributed P3 billion of public works department fund to Compostela Valley Rep Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora;

* found that a non-congressman named “Luis Abalos” got PDAF, when it was referring to Mandaluyong Rep Benhur Abalos.

Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan had refused to apologize to Zamora, saying it was the budget department’s clerical error that led COA to make the wrong findings.

“I think the chairperson of COA did a great disservice not only to Way Kurat but the institution of Congress by coming out with raw reports. That is unforgiveable. Out of delicadeza, I think she should resign,” Romualdez said at a press conference.

Tan declined to comment. 

Romualdez said COA did the Congress a “great disservice” for releasing a report with erroneous conclusions. 

“Doing that to an institution like Congress, she’s done irreparable damage, that the Secretary of Budget and Management had to explain the clerical error,” he added. 

Romualdez also pushed Tan to release the audit report on how the pork barrel was used under the current administration. The report only covered the period of 2007 to 2009, under then President and now Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

“If anyone is guilty, put them in jail but we should move forward and look at 2010 to 2013,” he said.

The special audit of the PDAF tagged 192 solons for misusing at least P6.1 billion worth of funds.

Secretary Butch Abad has admitted the errors were due to mistakes in data-keeping by the department under his predecessor. 

In an earlier interview with Rappler, Tan said: I think it only validates what we have also said in the report that the record-keeping, monitoring and tracking of DBM at that time at least was very very sloppy, if I may use the term…. Kasi papaano ka magkakamali sa isang P3 billion na amount? (How will you commit a mistake on a P3 billion amount?) Both mistakes are clerical errors in both cases, the amount of releases stand.

‘Not polished’

Romualdez mocked the COA report for being the opposite of Tan’s maiden name, Pulido (polished).

“As COA chair, she should double check, triple check the data,” Romualdez said. “But what did she do? She called a press conference. I have never recalled COA to call a press conference before. What you’re supposed to do is identify mistakes and confront those involved. You don’t call a press con. She was crying when she damaged a person’s reputation.” 

Tan earlier told Rappler she decided to hold a press con after getting numerous requests from the media for an interview. 

Zamora’s daughter, Compostela Valley Rep Maria Carmen Zamora-Apsay, delivered a privilege speech on Tuesday in defense of her father. 

“Even when DBM announced it was clerical error, our family will forever be associated with blind and baseless allegations of misuse of public funds,” Zamora said. “The damage has been done, Mr Speaker, and no amount of rectification of the COA can ever repair the humiliation, anguish our family has gone through because of COA’s incompetence.”

Zamora maintained that COA never notified her father of the audit report. 

1-Bap Rep Silvestro Bello also asked Tan to issue a public apology to the elder Zamora. – Rappler