Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo shared the Philippines Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) experiences in maintaining accountability and transparency during the time of pandemic at an online global discussion on “Managing COVID Funds: A Global Scorecard of Accountability” hosted by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) on 24 May 2021. The discussions centered on various countries’ assessment in maintaining transparency, oversight and public participation in managing COVID Funds and highlighted the need for accountability and global effort to battle COVID-19.
Joining Chairperson Aguinaldo in the panel were Mr. Nazir Kabiri - Deputy Minister for Policy in Afghanistan, Ms. Carolina Renteria – Chief of the Planning and Finance Management Division of the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Affairs Department, and Ms. Shumani Luruli – Program Coordinator for Plan Act, a Civil Society Organization (CSO) based in South Africa. Ms. Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International and a board member of the IBP, was the moderator.
IBP said the scale and complexity of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic have challenged governments' capacity to manage their resources effectively. By the end of 2020, more than $14 trillion had been spent on addressing the pandemic's financial impacts. These included additional spending measures, tax relief programs, and loans and loan guarantees. IBP’s report also stated that two thirds of countries failed to provide enough information on the relief packages that they introduced and almost half bypassed their legislatures.
The Commission on Audit (COA) puts emphasis on resilience and innovation in adapting to the challenges brought by the pandemic as it marks its 122nd anniversary on 8 May 2021. With the theme “Resilience and Innovation in the New Normal,” the Commission sustains quality audit performance amidst the disruptions caused by the pandemic through leveraging the use of various technologies and changes in processes and systems.
“We have tapped the use of different technologies to adapt to the pandemic situation as we transition to the new norm and to effectively and efficiently do our audit work,” Observed COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo. The Chairperson cited innovative programs such as the Machine Intelligence, Knowledge-based Audit and Experience Learning or MIKA-EL which is an envisioned artificial intelligence that provides for electronic submission of documents and assists auditors in early detection of fraud through analysis of collected digital data, and the COA Order of Execution Management Information System which is an automated system that strengthens the enforcement and monitoring of decisions on audit disallowances and charges.
“We continue to bravely face the ‘new normal’ in the performance of our mandated duties. While we continue with our work, bear in mind the circumstances of the pandemic we are in, where perhaps not all rules we apply in normal times can be applied in this ‘abnormal’ period, and where matters of substance should trump rigidities, and where observations should not lead to absurdities,” the Chairperson added. He also expressed his sympathy “for those of us who have suffered and lost loved ones” and gratitude “for those of us who continued to help and support our fellow COAns emotionally, spiritually, and financially.”
Commissioner Roland C. Pondoc, for his part, noted the Commission’s continuous delivery of efficient public service. “The effects of the global pandemic opened doors for re-evaluation and reconstruction of certain tasks and services delivered by the Commission, adapting to the ‘new normal’ with primary consideration for enabling the efficient performance of audit work while ensuring our personnel’s and the public’s safety and well-being,“ Commissioner Pondoc said. “Our productivity may have gone down expectedly when the pandemic first hit but we have successfully adjusted and found ways to use information and communication technologies and changes in work processes to our advantage personally and professionally,” he added.
Activities are to be held virtually online following the implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila. One of the highlights of the celebration is the “COA Salutes the Best” program to honor COA officials, personnel and retiree who performed outstanding audit work, and have shown exemplary conduct, integrity and loyalty. The program is scheduled on 6 May 2020.
Commission on Audit Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo reminded the participants of the EXCEED 2021 Accounting Convention on the importance of safeguarding taxes collected by the government to be used in the yearly National Expenditure Program.
Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo talked about COA's role in safeguarding the country's coffers and why taxes are deemed to be the lifeblood of the government in one of the various simultaneous classes of the EXCEED 2021 Accounting Convention that is taking place between 17 to 24 April 2021 with the theme, “Reshaping Business Dynamics, Catalyzing Post Pandemic Nation-Building.”
One hundred ninety-five students and participants attended the Chairperson’s lecture-presentation entitled “COA at a Glance.”
Sponsored by the Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants – De La Salle University Chapter, the convention aims to educate future business leaders as we prepare to enter a post-pandemic world of business and accounting. The convention featured several “classes” which are composed of a wide selection of topics that were presented by experts in their respective fields. The Accounting Convention is open to university students from all over the Philippines but with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event is being held entirely via Zoom and YouTube.
"In government, the finances begin with the collection of revenue. With the revenue collected, the government can now spend. Once funds are disbursed by government agencies, the auditors come in to review how these funds were disbursed," Chairperson Aguinaldo said as he described the National Budget Process.
The Chairperson explained that COA renders an annual report on the spending made by various government agencies from which the Department of Budget and Management and Congress determine items for inclusion or exclusion in next year's budget. Chairperson Aguinaldo said COA's role in the said process is promoting the general welfare of the Filipino people by discovering any forms of fraud and corruption.
"The Commission on Audit has Fraud Audit and Special Audit Offices which conduct thorough audits of transactions where fraud or irregularities have been reported. These reports are submitted to the Ombudsman for possible administrative and criminal prosecution," Chairperson Aguinaldo explained.
The Commission on Audit (COA) conducted the first batch of the Online Training on the Handbook on the Financial Transactions of the Sangguniang Kabataan (HFTSK) on 26 February 2021 to help youth civil leaders realize financial independence in the management of their funds.
A total of 45 SK officials from different barangays in Metro Manila, Baguio City, Rizal, Batangas, Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac, Quezon, Mindoro, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte, Sorsogon and Davao Oriental participated in the training conducted by the Commission’s Government Accountancy Sector (GAS) and the Professional and Institutional Development Sector
The session proper covers the specific rules, policies and procedures relating to the proper accounting, monitoring and documentation of the SK financial transactions, including SK budget, receipts/collections and deposits of SK Funds, disbursements/payments of SK Funds, supplies and materials, and property and equipment, and the SK financial statements and other reports. The course also provides a brief discussion on how to utilize the online facilities and introduced the use of GAS eLearning System, an online portal from which the asynchronous sessions are being facilitated.
The Commission on Audit (COA) joined the celebration of National Women’s Month (NWM) which highlights women’s participation in battling the COVID 19 pandemic with the additional theme “Juana Laban sa Pandemya: Kaya.”
The theme adds another dimension in this year’s campaign to focus on gender issues that became more prominent during the pandemic and women who have thrived despite the circumstances, among others. The 2017-2022 theme of the NWM celebration “WE Make CHANGE for Women” aims to inform and engage women as stakeholders making “change” a conscious effort, strengthen the implementation of the Magna Carta of Women through various gender and development (GAD) platforms and promote gender equality and women empowerment.
COA officials and personnel participate in the virtual opening program of the National Women’s Month celebration on 1 March 2021.
COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo said the challenges brought by the pandemic make advancing gender equality and women empowerment more important especially for the marginalized and vulnerable sectors. “COA has intensified the implementation of various programs to advance women empowerment. We continuously conduct capacity building programs that cater to the needs and concerns of every COA employee, believing that everyone deserves to be given a chance to realize their full potential regardless of gender,” he said.