Ex-Bohol mayor has P1.2 million unliquidated intel funds – COA report

BOHOL, Philippines – A former Bohol town mayor has yet to account for  P1.2 million in cash advances since 2008, a Commission on Audit (COA) report said.

The COA report said that former Anda Mayor Paulino Amper had failed to liquidate P1,208,000 of his office's intelligence funds despite repeated demands by COA for the last 9 years.

Citing COA Circular No. 97-002, COA said that an unliquidated cash advance would expose public funds to "risk of loss and/or misappropriation."

The P1.2 million unaccounted confidential funds formed part of the P2,116,688.09 outstanding unliquidated cash advances of the administration of incumbent Anda Mayor Angelina Simacio, according to the 2016 COA report made available to the public in October.

The report said Simacio has not yet liquidated P215,000, which she allegedly used for travel and intelligence-related activities when she was the mayor of Anda, Bohol from 2010 to 2013.

COA revealed that some Anda government employees have yet to liquidate at least P593,688,09 cash advances granted to them for travel and "other special purpose(s)."

COA Circular 97-002 notes that "cash advances for local travel should be liquidated upon return to station or 30 days later while special purpose cash advance must be liquidated upon completion of the activity for which the cash advance was granted."

Section 4.1.2 of the circular further states, "No additional cash advances shall be allowed to any official or employee unless the previous cash advance given to him (or her) is first settled, or a proper accounting thereof is made."

In the COA report, Anda's municipal accountant claimed she already sent demand letters to the concerned officials and employees, saying "they shall institute deduction from their salary if they will fail to liquidate."

Proper use of intel funds

On January 8, 2015, COA, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), and the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) signed a joint circular that redefined the guidelines on the use of confidential or intelligence funds.

Former budget secretary Florencio Abad had said "the joint circular comes at a time when our people are demanding greater public accountability in the use of funds and ensure that activities funded by the (confidential or intelligence funds) are legitimate ones."

Former COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan said in an interview with Rappler in September 2016 that the specific use of intelligence funds may not be disclosed to the public due to its nature and impact on national security.

However, she said COA has established measures to check confidential fund expenditures, stressing that intel funds "should be used for intelligence gathering or the purchase of information...but these have to be within a framework of a peace and order and safety program." – Rappler.com