Confidential, intel funds difficult to audit – ex-COA chair
MANILA, Philippines – How does the Commission on Audit (COA) check the use of funds allocated for intelligence gathering and confidential purposes?
By the very nature of these funds and their impact on national security, the specific use may not be disclosed to the public, said former COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan.
But this does not mean that the COA does not have its own measures to check the use of these funds.
"Intelligence and confidential funds should be used for intelligence gathering or the purchase of information...but these have to be within a framework of a peace and order and safety program," Tan told Rappler on Thursday, September 15.
"Dapat mayroon silang plano, sinusubmit nila sa amin, so that malalaman namin na sa paggastos ng confidential funds, sang-ayon sa plano," she said.
(They should have a plan, they should submit it to us, so that we can check if the use of confidential funds is in accordance with that plan.)
Tan said that COA relies on the submissions of government agencies using their confidential funds, since receipts are not expected in such expenses.
"We just have to take their word for it...But that's why it's very important that we have their plan. So that we can see if it's reasonable for them to have such expenses," she said.
The former COA chair also explained that the grant of intelligence and confidential funds lies in the hands of the legislature.
For instance, while the Office of the President is not an intelligence-gathering office, its request to have billions in confidential and intelligence funds is up to the legislature to approve.
For 2017, the Office of the President has requested P1.25 billion for Confidential Expenses, a 400% increase from the P250 million in 2016. It also requested the same amount for Intelligence Expenses, likewise up from P250 million allocated this year.
Because the specific disbursements and use of these funds are not spelled out, and COA relies on what the agencies themselves submit to auditors, Tan said she often asked why COA had to audit these funds.
In an attempt to set standards in reporting and documenting the use of these funds, COA came out with guidelines on the use and audit of confidential and intelligence funds in January 2015.
The joint circular was formulated by COA, together with the Department of Budget and Management, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, and the Governance Commission for GOCCs.
The guidelines spelled out stricter accounting and auditing rules to ensure that the funds are used properly.
"We worked hard to come up with this circular so that agencies can have some kind of standard in reporting, documenting, and utilizing these funds," she said. – Rappler.com