Drilon: Senate submits to COA rules

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Monday, February 24, 2014

SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Monday said the chamber is not going beyond their limits amid a reported warning issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the use of its oversight funds.

The COA also reportedly told senators to comply with time details of expenses on personnel services, maintenance and other operating expenses, capital outlays under the P3.344-billion Senate budget for this year.

According to reports, COA recently sent a memorandum to the Senate to ensure proper use of its P480-million allocation for oversight committees to avoid possible fund misuse.


Drilon said the oversight committees are created by law.

The Senate leadership assured they had taken various steps to ensure the proper use of Senate funds, including allocation for oversight committees as early as 2013.

"I support the call of our countrymen to tighten up the process of checks and balances on the use of public funds. And the Senate intends to comply with what COA is asking. These are innovations from previous practices and COA has asked us to look at and put things in order. I can tell you that all the senators are complying. In fact, liquidation of the committee budget has become more difficult," Drilon said in Filipino.

Drilon affirmed that receipts for expenditures are required for liquidation but there is a small portion that is allowed to be liquidated by certification.

"A portion of the funds is liquidated by certification. Even among the justices of the Supreme Court, they are allowed a portion to be liquidated by certification. Because these are needed and accompanies our roles as government officials," Drilon added.

Drilon said that each oversight committee is reminded to submit all pertinent documents and receipts including certification in order to make sure that all transactions are valid and legal.

The Senate President said the budget of all the oversight committees has already been reduced.

Earlier, Drilon immediately after he replaced Senate Minority Juan Ponce Enrile sought the termination of all personnel of existing oversight committees and proposed a uniform budget for each oversight committee.

There are 31 congressional oversight/ad hoc committees under the current 16th Congress. The oversight committees are different from the 39 permanent committees of the Senate.

Senate Secretary Oscar Yabes, for his part, made the assurance that the Senate is more careful when it comes to Senate's use of funds.

"We haven't seen that Commission on Audit memorandum, but the concerns raised in the report have been addressed already through the implementation of various reforms by the Senate leadership led by Senate President Franklin Drilon," said Yabes.

Reports also claimed that there were already advances from some of these oversight committees when most have not conducted any hearings yet.

Yabes said the rationalization of oversight committees, which addressed redundancy and resulted in the reduction of oversight committees to 30 from 36.

The Senate secretary also emphasized that the Senate leadership made the budget allocation for all oversight committees uniform and equal regardless of whether a senator chairs more than one oversight committee.

The COA came out with the warning as financial executives at the Senate noted a special provision in the 2014 budget that allows the realignment of allocation for operational expenses, subject to approval of the Senate president.

Apart from this, reports also said the COA is looking into possible anomalies stemming from the realignment of operational funds of the Senate under the 2014 budget.

The COA reiterated the need for senators to submit audit instruments periodically, including the list of staff members and consultants assigned to the respective oversight committees.

Under this special provision, each senator may realign his allocation for operational expenses to any other expense category, provided that the total allocation is not exceeded.

Under the 2014 budget, the Senate through the Senate President is also authorized to use savings from its appropriations to cover actual deficiencies incurred for the current year.

Of the 24 senators, 17 got oversight committee chairmanships. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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