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OVP spent 2022 confidential fund in 11 days, audit ongoing —budget sponsor Quimbo

The Office of the Vice President (OVP) spent its P125-million confidential fund in 2022 in 11 days based on Commission on Audit (COA) records, House Committee on Appropriations senior vice chairperson and Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo said Monday.

Quimbo, standing as budget sponsor of COA’s proposed P13-billion budget for 2024, made the response when asked by House Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela party-list Representative Arlene Brosas if the Makabayan bloc's computation that the OVP spent the fund in 19 days despite non-provision in the 2022 national budget was accurate.

Makabayan bloc’s computation was based on the Statement of Appropriations, Allotments, Obligations, Disbursements and Balances posted by the OVP on its website. It shows that the P125 million confidential fund was released to OVP on December 13, 2022 and was already spent by December 31, 2022.

“Hindi po ito nagastos within 19 days kundi 11 days po (It wasn’t spent within 19 days but within 11 days). The liquidation report by OVP was submitted by the OVP in January 2023," Quimbo said.

Quimbo, who has defended the OVP's P125-million confidential fund in 2022, then disclosed that the COA already issued an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) to the OVP in connection with the use of its confidential funds in 2022.

The AOM is a written notification issued to the agency head and concerned officers informing them of deficiencies noted in the audit of accounts, operations or transactions, and requiring comments or the submission of documentary and other information requirements within a reasonable period.

“Tapos na po ang pago-audit [ng confidential fund ng OVP], at ngayong umaga po nalaman ko po this morning na ang COA at nakapag-issue ng AOM sa OVP,” Quimbo said.

(COA has finished its initial audit, and I was informed this morning that COA has already issued AOM to OVP.)

The AOM on OVP’s spending of P125-million confidential fund, Quimbo said, was issued on September 18. The OVP will have 15 days to respond.

“The audit is ongoing, and an AOM is a preliminary finding so it has a confidential nature, and it conveys, requests additional documents from OVP para makapagpaliwanag sa ilang mga expenses po (so it can explain its confidential expenses),” Quimbo said.

Quimbo said that the COA’s unit in charge of auditing confidential and intelligence fund is only composed of nine individuals, so state auditors really take time in finishing their tasks given the limited manpower.

“They apologize for the delay. They are only nine people auditing confidential and intelligence fund of over 1,700 local government units, 57 national government agencies and 10 government owned and controlled corporations,” she said.

“Ito po ang katotohanan. Pero dahil sumabog na po ang katotohanan... ang issue ng confidential funds nung budget hearing, saka lang po tinutukan ng maigi,” Quimbo added.

(This is the truth. And since the issue on confidential funds has been tackled during the budget hearing, they are now focusing on it.)

Quimbo said the COA will finish its final audit on the confidential and intelligence fund of all agencies in 2022 by November 15 this year.

Oversight panel sought

During the same deliberation, Quimbo asked her colleagues for support in the creation of a House special oversight committee to ensure transparency in the use of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) by government agencies seeking such allocation.

Under Quimbo’s proposal, the special oversight committee on CIF will be composed of three members of the majority bloc and one member from the minority bloc. Its primary task is to ensure that the CIFs are used properly and judiciously.

“Naniniwala ako na ang kaban ng bayan ay dapat ginagastos para sa kaunlaran ng bayan (I believe that public funds should be spent to foster the nation’s progress). This can only be achieved with a stronger push towards transparent governance. The special committee will have the privilege of complete access to the reports submitted [by agencies] under Joint Circular 2015 [governing the use of CIF],” Quimbo said.

“With this special oversight committee in place, COA (Commission on Audit) can be assured of a partner in its bid for transparency in the use of confidential and intelligence funds,” she added. —KBK, GMA Integrated News