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P125M confidential funds spent in 11 days? 'Inaccurate' says OVP budget sponsor

The Office of the Vice President (OVP) Sara Duterte on Wednesday clarified that the "actual implementation" of the P125 million confidential fund was done in 19 days, not 11.

It was the Commission on Audit (COA) that initially disclosed that the OVP spent P125 million in 11 days in December 2022.

"To say that the Office of the Vice President spent the confidential fund in 11 days, the office submits its stand that is inaccurate," said Davao de Oro Rep. Carmen Zamora, the budget sponsor of the OVP’s proposed P2.385 budget for 2023.

Zamora made the statement in the presence of Duterte who was beside her during the budget deliberation. 

"The report of COA...the basis of the report of COA for utilization of the fund starts from December 20 to 31, and that is 11 days. However, the implementation of the programs started on the day the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) was released in December 13 of 2022,” added Zamora.

"Which means, immediately after the release of SARO, the implementation has already started.... Which means the actual implementation is not 11 days but it is 19 days," she explained. 

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers party-list, however, said that's still a huge amount to spend in over two weeks. 

“Walang pahinga, walang holiday ang paggasta ng confidential fund,” Castro said.

(So there is no let up, no holiday can get in the way of spending confidential fund.)

Zamora responded by saying that the programs funded by the confidential fund spending have been planned by the OVP as early as August 2022.

“If I may also emphasize that prior to the release of the fund, plans were already laid down by the OVP, and that became the basis of the OVP in requesting for confidential fund [in 2022],” Zamora said.

“Upon [her] assumption in office, plans were laid out but the actual implementation was delayed because the office had to wait for the release of the SARO,” Zamora added.

Zamora also said that the OVP's use of confidential funds is compliant with the 2015 Joint Circular governing the use of confidential and intelligence funds, and that confidential funds are used by the OVP to ensure safe implementation of the OVP's social services programs.

COA earlier said that it already asked the OVP to explain such spending by issuing an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) last September 18 and that the OVP has 15 days to respond. 

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.

Zamora, however, said the OVP has yet to receive the AOM.

"Per the records of the OVP, an AOM is yet to be received," Zamora said. —VAL, GMA Integrated News