Press Release
February 24, 2014

Senate strictly following auditing rules, says Secretary Yabes

The Senate leadership has taken various steps to ensure the proper use of senate funds, including allocation for oversight committees as early as 2013, Senate Secretary Oscar G. Yabes said today.

Yabes made the assurance in response to a media report citing a Commission on Audit memorandum on the 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 M. Drilon," said Yabes.

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

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

"One of the most significant changes is the allocation of P20 million for committee expenses to senators regardless of the number of oversight committees he or she chairs," said Yabes.

He said the new setup was approved during an all-senators' caucus last year.

Yabes said the Senate follows budgeting and accounting procedures, and that all senate expenditures pass through COA audit.

Yabes stressed that the funds allotted to each Senator's office and the oversight committee he or she chairs do not go to their pockets. The funds are used to pay for staff; to conduct research and legislative works; hire experts and consultants; and to fund overall office operations.

"The Senate is not exempt from government auditing procedures. The funds entrusted to us faithfully undergo liquidation processes and the expenses are supported by receipts and other documents evidencing the disbursements," he stressed.

He said that under Drilon's leadership, liquidation of cash advances is done by receipts, except for a very few items where transactions are strictly confidential that a mere certification is permitted. These include expenses relating to intelligence and data gathering in relation to a legislative inquiry, or expenses incurred to ensure the safety and security of the conduct of legislative inquiries.

Yabes also addressed the issue of realignment, saying that the Senate follows the process of realigning funds as employed by other government agencies including fiscally-independent bodies such as the Supreme Court and COA.

He cited that a provision (Section 2) under the budget of Congress allows the Senate President or the House Speaker to realign allocation for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

"The senators are allowed under the budget to seek realignment, and the Senate President would approve the request as long as it does not exceed the total allocation for each senator and that the realignment is done in accordance with the provisions of the law," said Yabes.

Yabes said the oversight committees are mandated by law to perform specific objectives, such as overseeing the implementation of certain laws enacted by Congress.

"A majority of the oversight committees were actually put in effect by the country's laws. They were instituted in order to capacitate the legislative branch in closely monitoring the effective implementation of the most pertinent laws of the land," explained Yabes.

"That is why many oversight committees are bicameral in nature- meaning, members from the Senate and the House of Representatives are both mandated to make sure that the nation's laws are working," he further said.

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