Palace explains communications office phone bills

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang explained on Saturday, June 22, the P1.36 million in mobile phone expenses incurred last year by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO), which were criticized by some quarters after it was mentioned in an audit report.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio station dzRB that the amount was for 24 mobile phone subscriptions for a whole year, which means an average of P4,500 per phone per month. It's within the average monthly bill of many post-paid subscribers.

"If you notice, what we're talking about here is 24 mobile phone subscriptions in an office of roughly around 75 people. So if you divide the amount, the result will be P4,500 per month, or expenses that will come out per person," she said.

Valte added the communications office was "intended to be heavy" on its use of mobile phones and the Internet, both locally and internationally, as a result of foreign trips.

PCDSPO is under Secretary Ricky Carandang.

More importantly, Valte pointed out, the Commission on Audit (COA) report did not find the spending irregular, and in fact acknowledged that the PCDSPO was able to submit supporting documents.

"Let us please look at the COA observation – which, by the way, was also included in the report that the office – that the PCDSPO has sufficiently addressed [the questions]," Valte said.

According to Valte, the COA report said the PCDSPO submitted the necessary documents on internal policies for mobile phones, answering policy questions on their assignment and use.

"I think in this particular issue, what is worthy to note is that there is no notice of disallowance. It's stated in the report... We know that if COA issues notice of disallowance, it’s either the spending is irregular," she said.

Records showed that what's allocated for PCDSPO was P85,424 monthly for 34 postpaid mobile phone subscriptions issued to various officials and personnel. There were also 8 prepaid cards having a total monthly allocation of P3,200 for several drivers.

The COA said Internet downloads, "pasa" or credit sharing with other mobile phone users, and other expenses caused the PCDSPO to go over its postpaid and prepaid mobile phone service allocations by more than P200,000.

The audit noted that the PCDSPO did not have policies in place for issuing and using the postpaid and prepaid mobile phone card allowances in 2012, which could indicate lapses on the internal controls for mobile phone uses, thus leading to unnecessary expenses.

State auditors, Citing COA Circular No. 2012-003 dated Oct. 29, 2012, defined unnecessary expenditures as spending that was “not essential or that which could be dispensed with without loss or damage to property.”

The auditors also said the PCDSPO management submitted guidelines for provisioning its communications services last February. This was to comply with the audit team’s recommendation to have policy guidelines regarding the release, use, and limitations of postpaid and prepaid mobile phone card allowances in order to keep future expenditures within budget. –