YOU MAY have heard or read the news that the Commission on Audit (COA) makes it hard for agencies of the government to ask relief funds during calamities. Even the President criticized the Commission and threatened to throw one of its auditors down the stairs.
This situation raised some issues: What agency of the government audits COA? How important are circular orders issued by the Commission? What are the contributions of the Commission to the national development?
Article IX of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that the Commission has exclusive authority with limitations to define the scope of its audit and examination. It has the authority to establish the techniques and methods required therefor, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations including those for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures, or uses of government funds and properties.
As to the question what agency of the government audits COA, the Commission is protected by the fact that it shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. The approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released. Fiscal autonomy means freedom from outside control. In the case of Bengzon vs. Drilon (G.R. No. 103524, 15 April 1992), the Supreme Court defined fiscal autonomy as “a guarantee of full flexibility to allocate and utilize resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require.”
Additionally, the fiscal autonomy of the Commission “recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions.”
When it comes to COA circular orders, the President challenged it by questioning why it should be followed. It seems that the President doesn’t care much about it. These circular orders may be “impractical” and “outdated” as what the former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza said. However, I checked one of its circulars, particularly COA circular dated April 15, 2014 which provides for the guidelines on how to account for and use National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management funds. It includes cash and in-kind donations from both local and foreign sources.
Reading the said circular made me realize that COA also used emergency procedures in the sense that it introduced processes and procedural controls which are usually use to bypassed rules to save lives and mitigate losses.
It contributed much in the national development of the country most especially in settling accounts pertaining to the revenue and expenditures of the government. It is the watchdog of the financial condition and operation of the government. Also, we cannot deny the fact that it championed in humanitarian assistance in times of crisis.
I believe the Commission needs even just an ounce of respect.
(Atty. Ayin Dream D. Aplasca practices her profession in Iloilo City. She may be reached thru email@example.com/PN)