Aside from tourism ads, auditors flag PTV's P157-M spending

MANILA, Philippines – The People’s Television Network, Incorporated (PTNI) spent P157.322 million on various projects flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) for inadequate or absent documents and  approvals.

These were all noted by the COA in its 2017 audit report of the state-run television network. The station is headed by general manager Dino Antonio Apolonio; it is an agency attached to the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) under Secretary Martin Andanar. (READ: FAST FACTS: What's in the PCOO budget?)

The P157 million is separate from the P60-million worth of tourism ads paid to the independent production company Bitag Media, an issue which has put Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo in the middle of the controversy. Bitag Media is owned by Teo’s brother, Ben Tulfo. (READ: FACT CHECK: Wanda Teo claims no hand in P60M ads, but DOT contract specified Bitag)

These spendings involve damages which were not charged to suppliers whose deliverables were delayed. They also involve incentive which were given without the approval of the Office of the President, payment of contractual workers without documents, a non-existent parking lot project, and a shortage in cash.

The COA has also recommended the firing of the disbursing officer who incurred the shortage, as well as the filing of appropriate charges against her. (The officer was unnamed but was referred to as "her" in the audit report.)

Undocumented contractuals

The COA also said that the payment of P77.302-million worth of salaries and benefits to contractual personnel were not supported by proper documents.

Because of the lack of documents, the COA said it could not establish the “legality, validity and accuracy” of the payments.

The COA found that contracts and certifications were not attached to the payroll, contrary to audit regulations.

PTV’s administrative division told COA “it could not commit” a date to submit the contracts for 2017.

However, they promised to submit copies of said contracts for CY 2016 once these were signed by the OIC-Finance Officer,” the COA said.

The last contracts which were submitted are from 2015. Because of this, the COA said “the legality, validity and accuracy of payments in the total amount of P46,751,534.85 net of withholding taxes could not be established.”

Damages by suppliers

The COA also said various suppliers “incurred delays” in the delivery of goods or services. Under the government procurement act, delays and inconsistencies in deliverables shall be fined every day until they are delivered.

For all these delays, P67.179 million should have been paid to PTV, but the COA said the station did not impose this on suppliers of satellite units, electronic vans, video systems, editing systems, antenna systems, and other renovation projects.

COA recommended that PTV “rescind the contracts wherein liquidated damages for late deliveries have already reached 10 percent of the contract amount." 

Unapproved allowances

The COA also found that P10.456-million worth of incentives and allowances were given to PTV officials and employees without the approval of the Office of the President (OP).

These were charged under the Southeast Asian Games Incentives or SEAGI and Economic Relief Allowance or ERA.

“Audit of Disbursement Vouchers (DVs) with corresponding bank debit memo, showed that on various days in December 2017 SEAGI and ERA in the amount of P4,457,500.00 and P5,998,800.00, respectively, or a total of P10,456,300.00 were granted to PTNI officials and employees, including personnel hired under as Contract of Service (COS) without approval of the President,” the COA said.

The COA said that the payments were authorized by the PTBV board, but that the documents were not signed by the finance officer although they were approved by the general manager.

The COA asked PTV to submit proof that they had authorization, and if not, to refund the amount and avoid a disallowance.

Cash shortage and non-existent parking lot

In the entire audit report, the cash shortage of P1.085 million elicited the strongest response from the COA. The auditors recommended that the disbursing officer be fired and charges be filed against her.

The officer was given cash advances amounting to P2.345 million for the ASEAN Ministers meeting and Grand Commemorative Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the ASEAN and the 31st ASEAN Summit.

After audit, there was a cash shortage of P1.085 million.

The Special Disbursing Officer failed to present cash items because she claimed that [it was] due to the volume of the receipts and the non-preparation of the Report of Disbursements or the non-maintenance of a cashbook,” the COA said.

Another P1.3-million worth of spending was flagged when the COA found out it was paid to a contractor for the development of a parking lot extension.

Verification of the accomplishment report in support of the payment made showed that accomplishment of said project was non-existent,” the COA said.

COA is a recommending body, but they can issue notices of disallowance if they see fit. The COA has an agreement with the Office of the Ombudsman to fast-track and immediately file cases against those which would fall under their Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

JIT cases audit complaints or reports involving at least P100 million.

Otherwise, the Office of the Ombudsman has the power to start an investigation on its own initiative, or wait for a complaint to be filed. –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.