COA flags DOJ for undocumented payroll, unauthorized accounts

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The 2017 audit report of the Department of Justice (DOJ) showed non-compliance in some of its payments and accounts, including undocumented payroll and bank accounts which were maintained without authority.

The DOJ was headed in 2017 by resigned justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra took over in April 2018.

In a statement sent to justice reporters on Saturday, May 26, Aguirre said he has “no participation whatsoever in the transactions subject matter of the annual audit report released by the Commission on Audit (COA).”

In the audit report of the DOJ released by the COA on Thursday, May 24, the justice department was found to have unreconciled payments, undocumented payroll which were paid only in March 2018, as well as dormant and unauthorized accounts.

The unauthorized account includes P8-million worth of trust fund from the AMAN Future Pyramid Scam.

Unsupported payroll

There were 4 vouchers dated March 1, 2018 – or Aguirre’s last month in office – which are worth P27.68 million that did not have supporting documents.

UNDOCUMENTED PAYROLL. The Commission on Audit (COA) flags four vouchers paid in March 2018 to be without payroll registers. Screenshot from COA's audit report

UNDOCUMENTED PAYROLL. The Commission on Audit (COA) flags four vouchers paid in March 2018 to be without payroll registers.

Screenshot from COA's audit report

The vouchers, COA said, “were not supported with payroll registers”.

“We rejoined that the Accounting Division submit the supporting documents for the four unsupported Journal Entry Voucher (JEVs) and to expedite their verification of the transactions,” state auditors said.

The 4 vouchers were flagged when auditors noticed that there were P33-million worth of unrecorded payments of salaries to job orders, as well as allowances of DOJ officials and employees.

When COA called the attention of the DOJ, the finance teams of the justice department said that they had reconciled part of the P323 million with the 4 vouchers. But upon verification, COA said the 4 vouchers were still unsupported.

There also remained an unreconciled amount of P568,564, which is still being processed by the DOJ finance teams to reconcile it with records, COA said.

Quoting the DOJ finance teams, Aguirre on Saturday said that the vouchers were not a case of “complete absence of documents or supporting documents.”

“It appears that the COA requires the submission of the document entitled Payroll Register. This document is available and submitted to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) as the basis for crediting of the amounts to officials and employees,” Aguirre said. He added that the registers were submitted to the COA on May 22.

Unauthorized accounts

COA said that the DOJ maintained 3 bank accounts without authority. These are Land Bank accounts for the AMAN Futures Pyramid Scam trust Fund, Yolanda claims, victims compensation fund (VCF), and witness protection program (WPP) fund, among others.

UNAUTHORIZED ACCOUNTS. The Commission on Audit (COA) says the DOJ has been maintaining accounts without authority. Screenshot from COA's audit report

UNAUTHORIZED ACCOUNTS. The Commission on Audit (COA) says the DOJ has been maintaining accounts without authority.

Screenshot from COA's audit report

“We recommended that Management transfer or deposit in full to the National Treasury (NT) the amount of P65,685,647.45 representing bank account balances not authorized to be deposited with authorized government depositary bank,” COA said.

COA noted that there has been partial compliance beginning 2015, or when Senator Leila de Lima was still head of the DOJ.

According to DOJ finance teams, P3.9 million of the total amount, or those covering Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Unicef accounts have already been deposited to the national treasury.

The DOJ said they will soon deposit the AMAN Futures Pyramid Scam fund, while the balance of Yolanda funds is “still being used to pay for the claims of employees who requested for reconsideration to increase their claim.”

“As regards the VCF Account, Management, during the exit conference, resolved to maintain the bank account to immediately pay the claims of victims,” COA said.

No parking of money

COA also flagged the DOJ’s “practice” of parking unspent money in one of its payroll accounts.

COA found an “undocumented transfer” of P621.6 million. In its exit conference with the DOJ, state auditors were informed that the fund transfers were for unspent balances of the allotments that the department received.

“The ATM account was used as a parking account for unused (Notice of Cash Allocation) to avoid lapsing,” COA said, in violaton of National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 567 dated January 3, 2017 issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto message in 2017.

Aguirre said: “It happens when the obligations for a particular period are not paid during that time for reasons beyond the control of the department. To address that situation, it is deemed beneficial for the DOJ to transfer NCA on a monthly basis to avoid the lapsing of the NCA and to ensure that there is sufficient and available NCA for the payment of due and demandable obligations.”

“We recommended that the Finance Service stop the practice of transferring funds to the ATM Payroll account for transactions without valid expenditures and to return to the Bureau of Treasury any deposit without valid obligations,” said COA.

Aguirre also defensively claimed that previous reports had insinuated that the funds were transferred to some beneficiaries. This is “the furthest thing from the truth,” he said. 

The DOJ committed to adjust and correct the balances, adding that “some were already taken up in the books of accounts.”

In its rejoinder, COA said, “Management did not give any details on their comments regarding the transactions already taken up in the books.”

In a text message, Guevarra said he will ask the finance teams for an explanation. –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.