COA to Senate: Submit official receipts of committee expenses

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    THE Commission on Audit has required the submission of official receipts by the Senate even after the chamber requested to be allowed to do its liquidations only by “certification” from designated disbursement officers that the fund allocations were spent for the intended purposes.

    In Resolution No. 2019-024 dated November 25, 2019, COA chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc said that while the audit body concurs with the guidelines in the Senate’s Memorandum Circular No. 2019-001, it cannot allow that reporting on the expenditure of the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and Other Maintenance and Operating Expenses (OMOE) be made only through certifications.

    “The Commission is of the view that cash advances from MOOE/OMOE should not entirely be liquidated through ‘certification’ considering that there are expenditures that can be validated or documented through presentation of Official Receipts (ORs) and/or other documents evidencing their incurrence,” the COA said.

    Reacting to the COA decision, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the COA has earlier approved his request that the Senate be allowed to just issue certifications to support expenses incurred by each senator.

    “It was already allowed. There’s a certain percentage [of the expenses] that certification is needed, and a certain percentage which should have a detailed liquidation report,” Sotto said in a chance interview.

    Sotto, however, was not able to elaborate.

    In a letter dated September 2, 2019, Sotto submitted for “consideration by the Commission on Audit” Senate Memorandum Circular No. 2019-001as a guide in the audit of Senate’s transactions.

    The Senate said that in the conduct of its legislative functions and investigatory authority in aid of legislation, its committees and sub-committees “engage in activities and transactions which are highly peculiar and different from the common or routinary governmental processes … involving expenditure of public funds.”

    Among the issues and functions cited were public hearings and consultations on matters of “national security, political, economic and social significance” in coordination with various sectors and special interest groups.

    The memorandum sought to establish procedural and documentary requirements in the utilization of budgetary allocation.

    In its resolution, however, the COA stressed that the 1987 Constitution vested it with exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods required, and to promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.

    It clarified that existing audit rules are meant to protect public funds by preventing irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures or uses of government funds and properties.

    However, it signified concurrence with other recommendations in MC No. 2019-001 while clarifying that the procedures shall apply only to transactions of the current Senate of the 18th Congress.

    Likewise, it made reservations to conduct periodic review of the proposed guidelines and the right to “modify or altogether scrap the same guidelines” when required by the interest of the government and effective state audit. – With Raymond Africa