House operating expenses ballooned by P3B in 2019

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    THE Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of the House of Representatives increased by more than P3 billion in just one year from P6.343 billion in 2018 to P9.357 billion as of yearend 2019.

    Based on the 2019 audit of the chamber released last January 29, the two main contributors to the increase were “extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses (EME)” which climbed by P1.48 billion year on year, and “Other MOOE” which went up by P1.657 billion over the same period.

    The House spent only P2.094 billion for extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses in 2018 but this rose in 2019 to P3.574 billion, a 70.7 percent difference.

    EME includes payments made for meetings, seminars and conferences, official entertainment, public relations, educational, athletic and cultural activities, subscriptions to professional technical journals and informative materials, contributions to civic and charitable institutions, as well as membership in government associations.

    On the other hand, the Other MOOE account surged 62.46 percent from P2.653 billion in 2018 to P4.31 billion in 2019.

    This account covered those related to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), expenses incurred during various committee meetings, caucuses, plenary session and visits of foreign dignitaries, socio-cultural activities of the chamber, death benefits for members, and Gender and Development related expenditures.

    Despite the hefty increases, there were no adverse findings in the audit report.

    Consultancy Services expenses dropped from P952.047 million in 2018 to P740.834 million in 2019 – a decrease of P211.213 million.

    Government auditors said they encountered difficulty in monitoring and evaluating the performance of the House because of its non-compliance with the timetable on the submission of quarterly budget and financial accountability reports (BFARs) in the first and second quarter.

    They noted that this was contrary to the requirement set under the COA-Department of Budget and Management Joint Circular No. 2019-1 which gives government offices no more than 30 days after the end of each quarter to submits BFARs.

    “We recommended that Management strictly comply with the provisions of COA-DBM Joint Circular 2019-1 particularly on the submission timelines required …to facilitate evaluation of the agency’s performance and accomplishments,” the COA said.

    The House leadership acknowledged the audit remark, saying there were some delays “attributable to the thorough review of data” even as it assured the DBM and the COA that “efforts will be exerted to comply with the deadlines.”