THE Commission on Audit (COA) has tagged as “irregular” and “lacking in legal basis” expenses made by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) charged against the P1.3 billion All Weather Communications System project of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
Government auditors said the DICT drew P10 million from the project fund which was utilized as Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) without the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and even if the entire sum from the weather agency was intended as “Capital Outlay.”
“The utilization of P10,001,503 constitutes a project fund misuse, as there is clearly no legal basis/authority in the disbursements made for operating expenses, which makes such expenditures irregular,” the COA said.
Likewise questioned were additional charges of P403,689.35 paid out by the DICT to other suppliers and contractors of unrelated projects and another P489,566 spent on “venue, catering, meals and other related expenses” for supposed kick-off meetings.
“The kick-off meetings initiated by the PMA (project management office) with only a few personnel in attendance is deemed as wastage of government funds,” the audit team said.
Records showed the Department of Science and Technology and the DICT executed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on December 29, 2016 for the implementation of the PAGASA Meteorological and Hydrological Telecommunication System program which entailed the transfer of P1.324 billion to the DICT covering the two phases of the project.
Auditors pointed out that under the 2015 General Appropriations Act, the sum was clearly designated for capital outlay, hence DICT’s spending of P10 million as MOOE was contrary to law.
Out of the said amount, P7.463 million was reportedly used to pay the salaries of contractual personnel of the DICT.
In its inquiry with the DBM, the audit team said the realignment was not authorized since the project funds were covered by the 2015 budget while the DICT’s request for conversion to MOOE was submitted only in August 2017, almost two years late.