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COA questions legality of P2B worth of Comelec transactions

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The Commission on Audit has questioned more than P2 billion worth of transactions entered into by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to the lack of supporting documents on the disbursement of public funds.

In its 2017 audit, the COA said the Comelec signed 60 contracts worth a total of P2.58 billion with various suppliers and contractors for the purchase of goods and services despite the lack of Certificates of Availability of Funds (CAF).

A CAF is a confirmation of a government agency's preparedness to purchase goods and services, and proves its capacity to pay for the contractual obligations with suppliers. 

The COA said this rendered the contracts null and void, "thus resulting [in] illegal disbursements." The audit did not state what kind of projects the Comelec entered into.

"Verification of the submitted contracts entered into by the Comelec disclosed that a total of P2,580,157,478.24 composed of 60 contracts for the supply and delivery of various goods and services were affected even with the absence of CAF," state auditors said.

Upon inquiry, the Comelec chief accountant blamed its Accounting Division which it said had lapses on the issuance of the CAF.

The COA, meanwhile, said the certification released by the director of the Finance Services Department (FSD) only pertained to the availability of allotment.

The COA directed the Bids and Awards Committee and the FSD to explain why it failed to secure a CAF from the chief accountant and justify why the contracts should not be disallowed.

The FSD, in a letter dated April 11, 2018, expressed apologies to the COA for the lapses in the contract execution, saying these were "purely and simply an oversight" on its part following the conduct of the 2016 elections.

Doubtful payments

The COA also questioned the validity of P121 million worth of payments made by the Commission on Elections for the hauling of election paraphernalia.

It said the bulk of the amount, or P119.28 million, was paid to the joint venture of 2GO Express Inc. and 2GO Logistics Inc. for the deployment of equipment for the 2016 national elections.

The COA, however, said it cannot validate the authenticity of the payment due to the Comelec's failure to submit original copies of the approved disbursement vouchers and its supporting documents. The vouchers were also not signed by the designated approving officer.

The Comelec chief accountant pointed to the Data Processing Division (DPD) which had the original copies of the supporting documents needed by COA, while claiming the vouchers can no longer be located.

In its recommendations, the COA told the DPD and the Accounting Division to also explain why the payments should not be suspended or disallowed due to the lack of documents on the project.

The chief accountant, in response, said the disbursement vouchers were already found and transmitted to the COA team on November 28, 2017. The COA said this is still subject for audit.

The COA further said the delivery of 300,250 pieces of spiral notebooks worth P2 million for the Technical Working Committees in the 2016 polls remained doubtful as of December 31, 2017.

The COA said the purchase of the notebooks were not included in Comelec's 2015 budget. It said the contract with Consolidated Paper Products Inc. also resulted in the wastage of government funds since 284,580 of these notebooks remain unused.

The commission told the Comelec management to require its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to scrutinize the project and explain why the procurement should not be disallowed.

The BAC said the discrepancy was made "due to excusable negligence" given the urgency of the procurement. It said the specifications of the notebooks of 50 or 80 leaves, instead of 40 leaves, was also an oversight. — MDM, GMA News

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