COA raises red flags over P1.3-M OSG training, seminars in 'expensive' venues

MANILA, Philippines – State auditors noticed several red flags on how the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) spent P1.375 million for its training activities and seminars in 2018.

For starters, the OSG spent P1.27 million for the activities held in what it described as “expensive” venues in Makati. The amount represents payment for the use of the venues and for food served during the seminars held at the El Cielito Tourist Inn, I’M Hotel, World Hotel Makati Incorporated, and Cocina Dela Abuelas.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said the “seminars/trainings could have been done in the office premises” to save on costs.

The OSG office is also in Makati. (READ: Auditors flag P7-M worth of OSG travels)

The auditors said the purchases were done through an alternative mode of procurement but did not comply with Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“Records showed that seminars/trainings expenses were paid despite lack of necessary document to support claims against government funds,” said auditors.

One of the lacking requirement was approval from the head of agency, Solicitor General Jose Calida.

There was also no attendance sheet, which violates Presidential Decree No. 1445 instituting a Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

“We recommend and management agreed to refrain from conducting seminars/trainings in expensive venues and instead hold future seminars/trainings at office premises or give preference to the lease of government-owned property as venue to save on scarce government resources,” the COA said.

In the exit conference, the OSG said “venues were duly canvassed and they were the most responsive and passed the scrutiny of the Bids and Awards Committee.”

'Doubtful' transaction

The OSG also paid P105,471 for fees of trainers and lecturers, but these were paid without adequate or complete documentation, in violation of COA rules and PD No. 1445.

Documents should have included an office order, coordinator’s report on lecturer’s schedule, and course syllabus of lecturers.

“The only supporting documents attached to DVs are letter of invitation and computation of honorarium,” the auditors said.

Auditors added, “Due to the absence of some supporting document, the propriety of the transaction is doubtful.”

In 2017, the OSG was flagged for Calida's excess allowances that amounted to P7.46 million.

Calida received a total of P8.37 million in allowances in 2017, but the COA considered the P7.46 million as excess because it was more than 50% of his annual salary.

That year, Calida became the first Solicitor General in years to be among the top 5 highest paid government officials. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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