THE Commission on Audit has questioned the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for releasing P53.79 million in cash advances to special disbursing officers in violation of existing regulations.
In the 2019 audit of the OPAPP released last October 7, the COA said 83 percent of the outstanding yearend balance or P44.78 million “remained unliquidated for 61 days to over one year.”
Under COA Circular No. 97-002, when the cash advance remains unused after two months, the officer who has custody of the money is required to return it to the collecting officer.
Likewise, full liquidation must be done at the end of the year.
Under the Government Auditing Manual, cash advances may cover purposes such as salaries and wages, travels, special time-bound undertakings, and petty operating expenses. However, the money cannot be spent on any purpose other than the reason for which it was granted.
Government auditors said the OPAPP failed to observe these rules which paved the way for the accumulation of unliquidated cash advances.
“A total of 123 special cash advances aggregating P40,837,744.40 were granted to 52 AOs (accountable officers) in CY 2019 despite the non-liquidation of their previous cash advances,” the audit team noted.
Likewise challenged for validity was the release of P10 million in cash advances without any timetable or any supporting documents indicating the specific purpose for such funds.
Ordinarily an application for cash advance has to state the program or schedule of activities to indicate a specific purpose.
The said amount was released in two tranches of P5 million each. The first one was dated January 29, 2019 and the second one on February 6, 2019.
The explanation for the fund release was “for expenses of the Bangsamoro Commission, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the OPAPP Peace Assemblies in support of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).”
“Non-compliance with the rules and regulations on cash advances are considered weakness in the control of government resources. The longer the unutilized funds in the hands of the AOs, the higher probability of exposing such funds to possible misuse or misapplication or loss,” auditors warned.
The COA urged the OPAPP to send demand letters to all accountable officers to liquidate how they spent their cash advances or to refund the excess balance if the purpose has been completed.
It likewise reminded the agency to require submission of full documentary requirements in future releases of cash advances
Should the accountable officers still fail to submit a valid liquidation, the COA said OPAPP should file criminal and administrative complaints against its erring officers.