MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Audit (COA) called out Vice President Leni Robredo's Angat Buhay program for poor planning and screening, as well as lack of monitoring and documentation in the post-implementation phase.
State auditors said the Office of the Vice President (OVP) has an "unclear selection procedure" of which local government units (LGUs) to get as partners for Angat Buhay.
Angat Buhay is Robredo's flagship anti-poverty program meant to complement the government's Conditional Cash Transfer program.
"The OVP has no clear-cut procedure on the selection of recipient LGUs, tainting the impartiality and fairness of the screening process, which defeats the purpose of providing LGUs with financial assistance based on need or opportunity," said COA in its 2018 audit report of the OVP.
Auditors found in the OVP's guidelines that Angat Buhay partnership can be given to an LGU "on a per request basis."
"It is not clear who would initiate the request. Does it need to be the LGU itself or could anybody request for a favored LGU?" asked COA.
COA added: "There are gray areas that taint the impartiality and fairness of the screening process i.e. Were there surveys made? Were the proposed areas chosen from systematically gathered information?"
The OVP told auditors that the LGU can request through a resolution or through its mayor. The OVP added that the request is approved after the LGU proves that it needs assistance.
The OVP promised to review its guidelines and take COA's recommendations into account.
In a separate statement released on Thursday, June 13, the OVP said the LGUs were selected through a “set of criteria that considers their localities’ needs or their record of good governance.”
“COA has been provided with the explanation for how each of these areas has passed the criteria, in response to their comment. Additionally, as observed by COA, we continue our efforts in gaining a deeper understanding of the circumstances in the localities – which include some of the farthest and poorest areas in the country – as well as in validating the necessity and implementation of the LGUs’ proposed projects,” said the OVP.
Angat Buhay was also flagged for lack of documentation, such as non-submission of liquidation reports, "casting doubt on the regularity, completeness, and accuracy of the projects."
Of the P80-million budget for 2018, COA found that more than half of the projects, worth a total of P44.66 million, had deficiencies.
"Of the 29 LGUs, only 10 issued ORs for the receipt of the transferred amount, contrary to Article 2.1.3 of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the OVP and LGUs, COA Circular No. 2012-001, and Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 1445," said state auditors.
According to COA, some LGUs submitted a certification in place of an official receipt, which the OVP accepted "though it was not the documentary requirement prescribed under Item 3.1.1 of COA Circular No. 2012-001."
"Moreover, the OVP did not diligently follow up the submission of ORs, which is imprudent for a source agency, whose fund is being disbursed," added COA.
State auditors also pointed out that the lack of monitoring by the OVP defeats the purpose of its poverty alleviation goals as "advocacy does not end at transferring the funds."
"The agency needs to observe and oversee that funds were utilized as intended. The absence of the liquidation reports and quarterly reports cast doubt on the accuracy and regularity of disbursements of the funds," said COA.
The OVP said it has reminded LGUs to submit complete documents. (READ: Robredo's anti-poverty program to build shelters for Marawi residents)
On Thursday, the OVP said the LGUs have until December 31, 2019, to comply with requirements.
“We accept COA’s reminder to ensure that all requirements should be submitted. Fortunately, these LGUs still have until December 31, 2019, to comply, as specified in their Memorandum of Agreement with the OVP, which COA has likewise noted,” said the OVP.
“Nevertheless, the OVP continues to remind the LGU recipients of their obligations. The office has also formed a Project Management Unit early this year, whose responsibilities include compiling the documentary requirements from the LGUs,” Robredo's office added. – Rappler.com