PCOO expenses up by 700%: Spending increased in travels, rentals, internet

MANILA, Philippines – Expenses of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) increased by 700% in 2017, compared to its expenses in 2016, largely due to the country's hosting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) events.

This is according to the Commission on Audit's (COA) just-released annual audit report of the agency.

The PCOO's maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for last year amounted to P1.3 billion, compared to P156.67 million in 2016. Thus, the 2017 expenses were 8 times more than that of the preceding year.

The biggest jump was seen in rent or lease expenses. The year 2017 saw the PCOO spending P764 million more than it did on this item in 2016. It spent P771.88 million on rentals and lease in 2017. The year before it was only P7.86 milion.

Rentals and lease expenses specifically went to the "rental of equipment, vehicles, venues, parking space, tents  used during the ASEAN Summit 2017 as well as rentals of office equipment used during the foreign travels of the President," wrote COA.

In the same report, COA flagged PCOO's awarding of contracts  for van rentals, among other anomalies it found in how the agency procured goods and services for ASEAN events.

Surge in travel expenses

The second biggest upshot in expenses was in the PCOO's travel expenses. For 2017, it ballooned to P162.32 million from only P30.11 million the year before. This is an increase of P132.21 million.

It's the local travels of PCOO officials and personnel that jacked up the spending with P119.62 million in funds going to it, compared to P14.99 million in 2016.

Foreign travels, meanwhile, spiked to P42.36 million, from P15.12 million in 2016.

According to COA, these expenses went to travel allowances, plane fares, and "other incidental expenses" incurred by PCOO officials and personnel during President Rodrigo Duterte's local and foreign activities. Also taken into account were travels made during the ASEAN summit hosting.

'Other' expenses, internet

"Other Maintenance and Other Operating Offices" also cost P98.85 million more than it did in 2016. From P21.17 million that year, expenses for this item grew to P120 million. 

This apparently went to paying for contractual personnel tapped just for the ASEAN summits. COA said it includes "other operating expenses relative to the hosting of the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN Summit," without specifying further.

The PCOO also spent much more on internet connection last year. Internet subcription expenses climbed to P80.27 million, from only P2.31 million in 2016. This was an increase of P77.95 million.

Other expense items saw an increase in 2017: training expenses, supplies and materials, telephone expenses; cable, satellite, radio expenses; janitorial and security services; and repairs and maintenance. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.