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Audit turns up P3.2B in Comelec advances.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to account for the more than P3.2 billion in cash advances that its officials and employees took out in 2013, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In its annual scrutiny of the poll bodys finances, the COA said the unliquidated cash advances of the Comelec officials and personnel went up by more than 700 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year.

The COA report, which the commission released on Friday, said the unliquidated funds were distributed by the Comelec to its accountable officers during the senatorial and local elections that year.

"Verifications revealed that the increase in the (unliquidated) accounts -was attributed-[to] the failure of most accountable officers to promptly liquidate their cash advances," the COA said.

"Further verification revealed that the increase was likewise attributed to the Comelecs highly centralized accounting system whereby all liquidation reports of the main and regional offices were processed solely in the finance services department," it said.

Of the total cash advances released during the midterm elections, the COA said only P281 million had been accounted for.

No public bidding

The COA also found that the Comelec spent P72.3 million for the printing of the voters information and instruction sheet (VIIS), which was used during the 2013 midterm elections, without a public bidding.

It said the contracts for the printing of the VIIS were awarded to 19 private suppliers through "shopping" or direct contracting, instead of a public bidding as mandated by Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Under the law, the Comelec is required to provide every registered voter with a VIIS which contains their name, address and the precinct and place where the voter is registered.

The information sheet also contains guidelines regarding the voting process and the instructions in getting sample ballots and the official list of candidates from the Comelecs official website.

Lack of planning

The COA said the Comelec en banc opted to directly deal with the private printers by approving Resolution No. 13-0298 on Feb. 26, 2013, "due to lack of planning."

Because of this, the state auditors said the election officials failed to "secure the most advantageous price for the project."

"The (law) provides that all procurement shall be done through competitive bidding, except in cases where alternative methods are deemed more economical and efficient," the COA said.

"Inquiry from the property officer revealed that there was no more lead time to conduct the required competitive public bidding for the information sheet and its timely delivery and distribution to the voters prior to the election," it added.

Printing decentralized

The COA also discovered that the Comelec did not allocate funds for the printing of the VIIS forms when it submitted its annual budget for 2013.

"The noninclusion of the VIIS form printing in (its annual budget) confirmed the Comelecs lack of planning for carrying out its electoral mandate," it said.

In justifying its decision to do away with a public bidding, the Comelec said the printing of the information sheets was "decentralized" to its regional offices to "minimize the cost of forwarding services."

But the state auditors discovered that some Comelec regional offices did not award the supply contracts to local suppliers as clearly stated under the Comelec resolution.

"Instead, some Metro Manila suppliers were awarded contracts to service the allocations of other regions while some regional suppliers were contracted for Metro Manila requirements or for other regions," the COA said.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 12, 2015
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