COA questions P60-M DOT ads payment to Ben Tulfo's media outfit

MANILA, Philippines – State auditors are questioning the P60-million payment made by the Department of Tourism to the media outfit of Ben Tulfo in 2017 because of lack of documents to support the transactions.

Based on the 2017 audit report on government-run People’s Television Network, Incorporated (PTNI), released on Friday, April 27, the Commission on Audit (COA)  said the payment was for  DOT ad placements in Kilos Pronto,  aired on PTV-4.

Ben Tulfo, brother of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, is the chief executive officer of  PTV-4 blocktimer Bitag Media Unlimited, Incorporated (BMUI), which runs Kilos Pronto. He co-hosts the show with brother Erwin and Alex Santos. 

COA said PTNI’s disbursement records in 2017 showed 3 checks were issued to BMUI amounting to P60,009,560:

But COA said there was no proper documentation for the 3 payments to BMUI, as PTNI failed to present a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or a Certificate of Performance on the disbursements.

"Due to the absence of the documents mentioned and the deficiencies noted, the accuracy, legality and validity of the payments made to Blocktimer BMUI in the amount of P60,009,560.00 could not be ascertained," COA said.

COA said this is in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1455, series of 1978 or the Government Auditing Code and COA Circular No. 2012-001, which lists the required documents for government transactions.  

“Interview with the Accounting personnel revealed that there was no Memorandum of Agreement or contract between PTNI and blocktimer BMUI relative to the airing of DOT commercial advertisements in the said program,” said the state auditors. 

COA had requested a copy of the MOA from PTNI’s Finance and Airtime Management/Programming Division, but the latter said the agreement was still being reviewed by PTV-4’s Legal Unit. 

“Since there was no MOA wherein the terms and conditions of the agreement are supposed to be spelled out, there was also no basis for the computations on how the said three payments were arrived at,” said COA.

More missing documents

Only PTNI and the DOT have an existing contract, indicating DOT’s purchase of a 6-minute segment in PTV-4’s Kilos Pronto as well as another 3-minute spot in the same program. 

“There were no provisions for the airtime rates per segment/spot and such other terms and conditions of the commercial advertisement specifically as regards the manner of payment,” said COA. 

State auditors also said PTNI could not show proper documents proving DOT was given the correct airtime it paid for. 

“Certificate of Performance (COP) to determine the actual airing time/period as well as the frequency of airing or the actual segments shown within the Kilos Pronto program as the basis to evaluate if all the advertisements shown within the Kilos Pronto program…were also not submitted,” said COA.

Moreover, the audit report said the contract between DOT and PTNI showed there were “no provisions” requiring the latter to act as a collection agency for Kilos Pronto.  

There was also no signature on the Budget Utilization Request (BUR) that was supposed to attached to the disbursement voucher. Instead, there was only a marginal note saying, “subject to attachment of the revised contract.”

State auditors blamed PTNI officials and staff who processed the transactions. 

“PTNI officers and personnel failed to exercise due diligence in the processing of the payment to Blocktimer BMUI with the end view of ascertaining that all payments made were in accordance with the duly approved contract/agreement/MOA entered into by and between PTNI and Blocktimer BMUI,” said COA. 

COA then ordered PTNI to submit all the necessary documents, including the MOA, Certificate of Performance for the airing of DOT commercials during Kilos Pronto’s airtime, Billing Statement with a computation breakdown on payments for Bitag Media, and a signed BUR. – Rappler.com