DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday stopped the P6.4-million renovation and remodeling of six comfort rooms at the Department of National Defense (DND) building in Camp Aguinaldo after the Commission on Audit (COA) raised questions against the “impractical and uneconomical and considered unnecessary expenditures.”
In the 2019 COA report of the DND released last July 24, government auditors tagged undertaking “impractical, uneconomical, and unnecessary,” adding that the project is not even related to the mandate of the department.
“In response to the said findings, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered the discontinuance of the renovation project and removal from the said comfort rooms of the air conditioning units in question, which will instead be used in other approved facilities,” DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong said.
“The COA is the body that evaluates if the people’s money is spent wisely. It does not mean that if a project has been approved by Congress, the COA can no longer audit it according to its mandate. It can disallow it or it can raise a red flag that the money has not been used properly,” Andolong quoted Lorenzana as saying.
But Andolong said the decision of Lorenzana does not necessarily mean that the defense department was wrong for pushing the repairs, complete with air-conditioning units and hot and cold showers.
Andolong said the issue was already initially discussed and explained by the DND with COA during a mandatory exit interview on 26 February.
Andolong said repairs at some of the comfort rooms are ongoing. However, he said works at the other comfort rooms have yet to start.
Andolong said the comfort rooms are currently “functional” but maintained they needed repair. He said the last time the comfort rooms underwent repair was in 2000.
Asked if Lorenzana’s order means an admission COA was right in its assessment, Andolong said: “Not necessarily. The law does not state or define what extravagance or excessive is.”
“He (Lorenzana) said we will defer to the COA because it is they who render opinion on whether funds are disbursed or spent properly so we are going to follow the opinion of COA,” said Andolong.