Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2006, the Philippines is ranked 121st among 163 countries

The Office of the President is one the most corrupt government agency since 2001. The Ombudsman and Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) are just playing lip service to curb corruption. Big fishes in the Arroyo government are spared and protected for their thieving frenzy. The P3 billion fertilizer funds scam and overseas workers’ OWWA trust funds were diverted to Gloria Arroyo’s electoral fraud operations in 2004. The Philippines is the second most corrupt in ASEAN nations.

Senate unearths P5B waste in GMA’s office
By Angie M. Rosales
Daily Tribune 11/08/2006
More scams in the Palace, specifically the presidential office, are surfacing.
Billions appear to be funneled into the Office of the President (OP) with the funds allocated to certain agencies under the OP getting “lost,” “wasted” and even marked as “advances,” which are never liquidated. Worse, the OP seems not to know how the money is spent, and where it really goes.
More than half the P3.8 billion budget President Arroyo is seeking for her office’s operations next year was found to be highly questionable by the Senate finance committee.
At least P2 billion which is being allocated to an “attached” agency, the former Bureau of Telecommunications that was renamed Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and is being claimed to be operating at P1 billion yearly, was found by the Senate panel still to be using the primitive “telegraph” equipment.
Officials of the said agency admitted to being the source of the more than P800 million down payments that government made to MegaPacific Esolutions Consortium in acquiring the highly-controversial automated counting machines (ACMs) contract.
Roughly, P5.8 billion had been put to waste as described by senators yesterday during the budget hearing by the panel chaired by Sen. Franklin Drilon, with regard to the agency that is under the direct supervision of the Office of the President in the last five years of its existence, in a bid to keep up its rationalization program of the government.
Drilon’s panel was also told that there is an outstanding P77 million “unliquidated” cash advances incurred by the Office of the President.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita who came to defend Mrs. Arroyo’s proposed appropriation admitted that this amount is even “understated”, with the office still in the process of gathering all the documents pertaining to all their expenditures.
Asked by Drilon to identify the “biggest spender” right there and there, Ermita was caught off-guard, but just as quickly said he will just submit all the needed documents in the days to come, saying he is not in a position to relay the information being sought from him.
Of top of the questioned figures, Drilon also confronted Ermita over information that he had been tipped off on the alleged massive expenditures incurred by National Security Adviser (NSA) Norberto Gonzales, Mrs. Arroyo’s alter ego was prompted to admit to the senator that Gonzales does have an outstanding unsettled obligation, in the whopping amount of P138.7 million.
This is even twice as much the P77 million unliquidated cash advances posted by the OP.
“I have a text message here Mr. Secretary and I can’t help but ask you about this….is it true that Gonzales has made over P100 million in cash advances? Unliquidated? Is this true or not?” Drilon asked Ermita.
“Actually, it’s P138.7 million, your honor,” Ermita confessed, explaining that this amount of unsettled expenses does not necessarily represent even the so-called confidential funds of the country’s intelligence and security adviser to the Chief Executive.
Drilon made it clear that he deplored this “ abuse of authority” on the part of NSA and called on Mrs. Arroyo to institute disciplinary measures on an official like Gonzales.
He stressed that if a government official like Mayor Jejomar Binay or Mayor Peewee Trinidad would be disciplined for offenses which are even unclear, Drilon said he failed to see why the President should not discipline Gonzales. “This is in violation of CoA rules. Is Secretary Gonzales beyond CoA regulations?
Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) Deputy Executive Secretary Susana Vargas later explained to Drilon that the said amount was actually incurred by Gonzales prior to his having taken on the National Security Council.
“He indicated that this was just for his operational expenses (while he was still acting as presidential adviser for special concerns),” she told Drilon who pointed out to them that the said amount exceeded the more than P50 million yearly allotment to the NSC secretariat of which the NSA is chairman.
Drilon then pounded on Ermita on the course of action the Palace intends to take against Gonzales to have him account for the said expenses.
Ermita said efforts are now ongoing to have Gonzales liquidate the stated expenses that the Palace official said represent those so-called carry-over expenditures dating back as far as 2002.
“What? Since 2002? That is almost five years now? Gonzales has not liquidated P138.7 million for five years now?” the senator asked.
“Yes. But we will ask the National Security Adviser to liquidate this,” Ermita retorted, adding that he had been told by Gonzales’ subordinate that the latter had actually been not receiving his salary due to the said unsettled government “collectibles.”
“I notice an eerie silence from among the people from the OP,” Drilon said in chiding Ermita over the “startled” look that other OP officials showed before the panel when the matter was “exposed” by the senator.
Even if the Senate panel took up the sought for appropriation of Mrs. Arroyo, Drilon made it clear to the Palace officials that the upper chamber would not easily cave in to the apparent caprices of the Palace especially after having uncovered what he pointed out as questionable allocations being given to CICT as well as the P650 million intelligence and confidential funds sought by the OP.
Some P500 million of the said P650 million is proposed to be given to PAOCC that Drilon assessed has been giving a dismal performance.
“This is really embarrassing. Imagine, we spend P500 million…but if you read the accomplishments of the PAOCC, it’s really something that you can not be proud of,” commented Drilon.
He then noticed the P1 billion proposed to be appropriated to CICT for its so-called “E Government Fund”, which then led him to the discovery that the amount is over and above the P1 billion that the said office is seeking for its operations for next year.
CICT Commissioner Angelo Timoteo de Rivera acceded to Drilon’s observation that the said E-Government Fund, that is supposed to complement the E-Commerce Law, is separate from the budget of the commission itself which is a total of P1.59 billion under the OP.
“The E-Government Fund is a fund under the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) which we provide review as well as recommendation to the DBM as to which projects to be funded following some specific parameters,” De Rivera explained.
“Quite substantial Mr. Secretary. I do not know whether you knew this,” he said.
“These are matters, Mr. Chairman, which probably after this hearing I will have to take a look at because I just heard the huge amount from the chairman (just now),” Ermita replied.
“With the text and email…advances and technology, nobody seems to be using at this age the telegraph anymore,” Drilon added, having been told by De Rivera that the agency’s main task as “telecoms office” is to run the telegraph service or the telegraphic transfer service throughout the country with over 5,000 personnel under its employ.
The CICT is operating at P938 million and P168 million represents its maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
In the last five years of its existence, it had incurred over P5.8 billion in expenses and some P400 million was spent last year to pay the salary increase of its personnel, Drilon was told.
“So Mr. Executive Secretary, here you are, you have P1 billion for personnel services, MOOE to an office which has outlived its usefulness, given the advances and technology. During our time we used the telegraph but now, when we communicate, if ever, we use the text and email. We never use telegraphs. Here, you have P1 billion in government funds being spent every year for telegrams, I do not know how many telegrams are being sent….and with close to 5,000 employees? Has there been any attempt to rationalize the operations? This is practically P938 million every year which practically goes down the drain. How long have you been trying to rationalize this?” he asked.
“So for the last five years, we have seen how this office has been outmoded and we have spent P5 billion in an outmoded office which we are not using. Is that how we can phrase it?” Drilon further inquired.
“We’re already overstaffed in our bureaucracy. We make this work already in many government offices. Of course I realize this is a function of a labor surplus economy but to the extent that it is clearly a redundant office because technology has made its usefulness no longer viable. We should take a stand and have the political will to save money for the people. We impose VAT on our people and on the other hand, we spend P1 billion on an activity or an office which clearly outlived its usefulness.
“Mr. Executive Secretary, I suggest that you take a good look on this because obviously De Rivera is just trying to rationalize this otherwise difficult situation where we spend over P1 billion for an office which has outlived its usefulness,” the senator said in berating the Palace official.

P500M ‘Bolantic’ caper caused PNOC chief to quit. Diversion of funds to May campaign feared

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