Press Release
February 22, 2011

Trillanes: Review COA audit practice and procedures

Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV wants an overhaul of the audit rules and regulations to improve the practices and procedures at the Commission on Audit (COA) following revelations of an alleged collusion between state auditors and former high-ranking military officials to cover up massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

An ongoing investigation into the plea bargain agreement between prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman and former military comptroller Carlos Garcia showed that an auditor and a former COA commissioner allegedly benefited from the wide-scale anomaly involving "conversion" of AFP funds.

This has prompted Trillanes to file Senate Resolution No. 390 seeking a review by the committee on finance of the existing laws governing the practices and responsibilities of state auditors and come up with legislation to help COA fulfill its constitutional mandate.

Trillanes cited the statement of former AFP budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa, who told a Senate hearing that former COA Commissioner Raul Flores and Divina Cabrera, then resident auditor with the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), allegedly received two percent of converted funds from erring officials in exchange for their cooperation.

It was also revealed during the blue ribbon committee investigation that Cabrera had allegedly sought the help of Rabusa to destroy documents showing how funds for personnel services (PS) or salary of the ISAFP personnel were spent for other purposes in fear that these might be discovered or "overheat."

Trillanes expressed concern over Cabrera's own admission that she had knowledge of the practice of converting military funds but saw nothing irregular in the ISAFP book of accounts based on the documents that were submitted to her.

Cabrera's testimony that she was resident auditor of the ISAFP for 13 years (1991-2005) was a clear violation of agency's rules and regulations, the senator said.

"This is highly irregular and anomalous because it clearly violated COA's own Resolution No. 87-6 on 2 November 1987, which set forth the limit of stay of their auditors in a particular agency to a maximum of three years only," Trillanes explained.

Records showed that 26 state auditors were either dismissed or suspended in 2009 for administrative cases stemming from irregularities in the performance of duties, while 37 auditors have pending cases with the COA chairman's office. Last year, 21 auditors were dismissed or suspended and 46 more have pending cases.

According to Trillanes, such situation and allegations of complicity only underscore the need to thoroughly study auditing rules and regulations to strengthen the practices and procedures within COA and address the obvious gaps by crafting a new law.

"COA's mandate is to manage, utilize and safeguard government resources from illegal or improper disposition, with a view of ensuring efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the operations of the government," Trillanes said.

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