A former state auditor said the Commission on Audit (CoA) has become a two-woman affair between chairman Grace Pulido-Tan and commissioner-nominee Heidi Mendoza and that the special report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) covering 2007 to 2009 “was a serious deviation” from accepted audit practice.
Retired State Auditor V Arturo Bersana said the “deviation in audit process is deviation in due process and deviation in due process results in injustice.”
He cited reasons for the PDAF special report being highly irregular, including the mechanism for the PDAF audit that was never discussed within the CoA as a collegial body despite Mendoza announcing that the mechanism has been put in place to examine the pork barrel of Congress before a World Bank forum in Washington DC.
Both Tan and Mendoza are appointees of President Aquino.
Bersana claimed that the audit report on the PDAF is the product of only one Commissioner and not of the Commission as a collegial body. “The process observed by the Tan-Mendoza tandem in the audit of the pork barrel is unconstitutional,” he added. Bersana said the mechanics, the audit program and the criteria for performing the audit was never discussed in the Commission Proper, the governing body of the Commission, even as Mendoza announced this in the US.
Bersana said that the PDAF audit has been placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of Mendoza, citing an unnumbered CoA memorandum circular dated May 10, 2013 designating her as being in charge of the PDAF audit since 2011.
“So exclusive is the jurisdiction and authority of Mendoza in the audit of the pork barrel of members of Congress that not even Commissioner Rowena Guanzon (the only other CoA Commissioner) can dip her finger into this realm without the permission of Commissioner Mendoza, with due notice directly to Chairman Tan,” Bersana said.
Mendoza was also given the privilege of not submitting her work to the commission proper while Guanzon is required to present the result of her work to collegial body for discussion.
Bersana said the preparation of the PDAF audit report and its release deviated from the usual audit process
“The audit was bad enough for being faulty; the audit report was worse for being crude; and its release was worst for being gradual, selective and biased,” the auditor said.
He said the five senators who have been the focus of the audit team were victims of injustice because the CoA “did not give them the chance to explain before the audit report was finalized.”
“After listing the salient findings of the audit team, CoA should have informed the Senate President, being the head of the agency. The Senate President will order all concerned to attend the conference and explain their sides on the issues raised,” he added.
He said the process would have served to blunt adverse reactions to the report and enable the auditor to present a fair and well-balanced report.
“Above all, it will pinpoint who is directly responsible for the irregularity, if any,” he added.
He said that the CoA has become the Commission on Accusations and that its current partiality has resulted in the demoralization of its personnel.
“After talking to supervising auditors, audit team leaders and team members in units of various sectors and offices, I came to the conclusion that COA is no longer the commission on audit that people used to know but the commission on accusations,” he said.
Bersana’s recommendations as a result of the arbitrary process in crafting the CoA report on the PDAF were for Congress to conduct an inquiry into the present situation in CoA; to subpoena or require CoA to submit the minutes of the CoA Commission Proper meeting on the audit of the PDAF; require CoA to submit the mechanics and criteria for the audit; and for Congress to file resolutions or legislate measures necessary to remedy or prevent the occurrence of the present problems in CoA.
He added many CoA insiders have said that CoA is suffering from a serious case of malicious speculation epidemic so widespread that thousands are now either resigning or retiring lest they become victims of the gossip virus and thereby get investigated, suspended or placed under house arrest (the insiders’ term for those pulled out from the field and stationed in central office).
Bersana said he was among those included in the list of those accused for plunder which was “the strongest argument that malicious speculation epidemic indeed persist in CoA.”
Both the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman, nonetheless, have cleared him of the charge.
“Confirmed reports on the leaking out of closely guarded records, documents and proceedings of the CoA indicate that there is now a sagging faith and confidence of its officials and employees in the capability of the present leadership of CoA to manage and motivate its highly educated and trained personnel thereby degrading the quality of audit and reports and placing the commission in difficult and embarrassing situation,” he said.
“Demoralization is so widespread that it has reached disturbing, even worrying proportions. It is time to ponder, study and act. A time for Congress to seize the moment, swiftly and decisively,” he added.
He said Mendoza utterly lacks the required experience and skills in personnel management and administration.
The officials and the rank and file of the CoA personnel detest the frequent designation of unconfirmed CoA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza as officer-in-charge, he said.
Bersana also alleged that the Tan-Mendoza tandem maintains a spying system on state auditors in which auditors are frequently summoned to the central office for conference or oftentimes for questioning or summarily placed under house arrest, meaning pulled out from the field and assigned in the central office.
“This style of management reminds me of the time when I was six years old during the second world war when the Japanese kempetai boss would haul the Filipinos and instruct a spy to finger point suspected traitors among those standing in front and whoever is finger pointed by the spy is either shot or bayoneted,” he said.