Customs, Treasury missteps in Marcos loot result in possible loss – COA

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) for missteps in the handling of confiscated Marcos wealth – including jewelry – that may cost the government millions.

There is missing money in the accounting books of the BTr, money set aside from the Marcos loot to help with recovery expenses. The value of the most expensive Marcos jewelry collection meanwhile was understated due to the non-submission of appraisal reports at the Customs level.

Missing funds

In the case of the BTr, P42.28 million worth of funds from the Marcos loot is missing and cannot be found in any of the accounting books, COA said in its 2016 audit report on the Bureau of Treasury-National Government (BTr–NG) released on August 1.

In 2012, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) remitted to the national treasury P422.83 million worth of recovered Marcos wealth. Of the P422.83 million, 10% was set aside to cover PCGG expenses amounting to P42 million, in accordance with the law.

The 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA) allowed the PCGG to use "not more than 10%" of the proceeds for recovery, selling, custodianship and other costs related to the handling of seized assets. (READ: What you should know about the agency hunting Marcos' ill-gotten wealth)

But as of December 2016, the BTr-NG said "there was totally no fund being managed relative to the said amount."

According to COA, the BTr-NG claims the fund was transferred to the bureau's Treasury Single Account (TSA).

"However, no documents or other evidence of transfer can be provided to support the transfer of funds to the TSA, thus, existence of the fund cannot be established," COA said.

So where is the P42 million? COA said the bureau has already prepared a voucher to restore the money.

"However, the document evidencing the existence of the P40.784 million was still not provided to the Audit Team," COA said. COA is still asking the bureau to provide pertinent documents to prove the government still has the money.

'Understated' jewelry

For the BOC, COA said the non-submission of appraisal reports resulted in the understating of the confiscated jewelry collection.

It pertains to Imelda Marcos' Roumeliotes Collection composed of 60 pieces of more extravagant jewelry and loose gemstones. They are considered the "most expensive" among the collections being kept now at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The jewelry were confiscated in 1986 but as of December 31, 2016, an appraisal report has not been submitted, according to COA's 2016 audit report on the BOC released late July.

An appraisal report is needed to establish the value of the jewelry collection. According to COA, appraisal of the jewelry still stands at 1988 estimates: $5.315 million (high estimate) and $3.846 million (low estimate).

"The non-submission of Appraisal Report for Roumeliotes Jewelry Collection at appraised value on the date of establishment of ownership resulted in nonrecording in the books of accounts thereby understating the assets and equity accounts and consequently, exposed these assets to possible risk of loss," COA said.

COA added that an appraisal was held in 2015 – during the time of former commissioner Alberto Lina – where auction firm Sotheby and Christie's examined the jewelry. However, from that time to the present, the BOC has not submitted the updated appraisal report.

COA urged BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon to act on the matter and submit as soon as possible the updated appraisal report to their chief accountant. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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