“LET us answer first.”
This was the appeal of Cebu City officials to the Commission on Audit (COA) after lamenting that audit reports were being “leaked” to the media.
“All confidential information should first be received by the recipient. I think that’s fair so we won’t get caught off guard,” said city legal officer Jerone Castillo yesterday.
He said there were instances when an office whose operation was the subject of an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) appeared in a newspaper headline story before the head of office had received an official copy.
(The memos, which are public documents, are obtained through various sources by media outlets in the interest of full public disclosure. Sometimes, a letter request to the COA is also required before the release of a major audit report. – CDN publisher.)
COA and city officials held an exit conference yesterday at the mayor’s office before COA finalizes its Annual Audit Report of the Cebu city government.
According to Castillo, the conference was intended for the city and COA to thresh out the observations of state auditors.
He said COA representatives agreed with his request to let city officials answer first, but didn’t admit being the ones releasing documents to the media.
“We’ll not be fault-finders at this point. We just want to correct the system. If it’s confidential in character, tell them first. Give them the opportunity to examine the document… We don’t have an issue on transparency here,” Castillo said.
“Normally, if the AOMs are given early, we can comment before the conference. But sometimes, we are given ample time after the conference before an annual audit is issued. This will be after we consolidate our answers and replies and discuss them,” he added.
Since last month, the COA has issued several AOMs against the city government’s transactions like the disbursement of advance payment to a private contractor with incomplete documents, foregoing competitive bidding contracting the services of a landfill among others.
Most of these AOMs are taken up in the City Council’s agenda during their regular session, which is open to the public and covered by the media.
Some AOMs were released with the city government’s reply to adverse COA observations, especially for infrastructure projects like delays, non-implementation and extension of project contracts.