'Confidential expenses': Palace spending in Philippines doubled in 2012

MANILA, Philippines - The expenses incurred by the Office of the President (OP) almost doubled to P2.2 billion (S$62 million) in 2012, from the P1.1 billion spent the year before, according to the latest Commission on Audit (COA) report on the office.

Maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) accounted for P1.67 billion of the amount spent in the period reported, up from the P629.75 million in 2011, the COA said.

"Confidential expenses" got the lion's share of the MOOE with P638 million. No amount was allocated for this item in 2011.

Of the confidential expenses, P500 million was used and the difference of P138 million should have been posted by management as "liquidations" for 2011, the COA said.

Also under MOOE, P264.107 million was spent for "repair and maintenance-aircraft and aircraft ground equipment," against the P53.94 million spent in 2011 for the same purpose.

But the increase was supported by a memorandum of agreement between the OP and the Philippine Air Force, the COA said.

Foreign travel expenses went up to P147.24 million in 2012, from only P84.41 million the year before, while representation expenses grew twice as big, from P30.6 million in 2011 to P67.38 million.

Personal services accounted for P540.684 million of the OP's expenses, up by P36.35 million from P504.33 million, while salaries for regular and contractual employees reached P361.48 million, up by P55 million from P305.13 million.

Other bonuses

"Other bonuses and allowances" almost tripled to P10.92 million, from P3.23 million in 2011, while "yearend bonuses" slightly increased to P31.58 million, from P27.03 million.

Meanwhile, cash advances to regular and special disbursing officers due for liquidation as of Dec. 31, 2012, under the "advances to officers and employees and other receivables" accounts amounted to P15 million and P432.69 million, respectively, or a total of P447.7 million.

Of this amount, P410.57 million pertained to the accumulated balance of previous administrations.

The COA lamented that cash advances were granted to accountable officers although their previous cash advances were not yet settled, contrary to COA rules.



"We recommended that management exert all efforts to collect or settle unliquidated cash advances that have remained outstanding for more than 40 years," the COA said.

The COA asked the OP to ensure that all cash advances are liquidated at the end of the year and that no additional cash advances be allowed to any official or employee unless the previous cash advance given to him or her is first settled or a proper accounting thereof is made.

Audit disallowances totaling P439.37 million and audit suspensions aggregating P3.79 million remained unsettled as of Dec. 31, 2012.

The COA also noted that the interagency fund transfers totaling P443.65 million remained outstanding for more than a year as of Dec. 31, of which P123.92 million pertained to the Aquino administration.

It said total liquidations/settlements of P110.56 million were made during the year, P104.63 million of it pertaining to fund transfers granted during the current administration and P5.93 million during the previous Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) did not submit quarterly reports to the OP on its operations for 2012, as required under Executive Order No. 15 of 2001, the COA said.

Likewise, the remittances made by Meco to the OP for the period August 2003 to October 2009 totaling P201.6 million were not supported by the quarterly reports. Thus their accuracy based on the revenue-sharing agreement provided in the memorandum of agreement of Dec. 27, 1999, could not be established, the COA said.

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