Strengthen pre-audit mechanism
The Commission on Audit (COA) has announced that it was keeping its policy of pre-auditing government projects but only for some agencies like the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. (Inquirer, 8/17/11)
Indeed, lifting pre-audit at this time when mega-thievery is are being unearthed is, to put it mildly, premature if not untimely. Following nine years of unprecedented, shameless corruption committed with impunity, the call is for COA to strengthen or re-tool instead the pre-audit mechanism as a deterrent to irregularities or anomalies in government.
Reinstituted by former COA chair Reynaldo Villar in 2009, the pre-audit policy is aimed at preventing irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures or uses of public funds and property, among other key objectives. “Prevention” is the operative word for COA’s adoption of the pre-audit policy. In theory as well as in practice, pre-audit is preventive while post-audit is curative. As the oft-repeated adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
My experience as unit auditor in the field for 18 years has convinced me that there is no substitute for pre-audit as a most suitable approach to prevent government irregularities, at least in the Philippine setting. COA’s client agencies and other stakeholders are one in saying they need the hands-on assistance and guidance of state auditors in their day-to-day affairs and transactions.
The COA has undergone thorough professionalization since the time of former COA chair Francisco Tantuico. It has evolved into a topnotch government entity composed of CPAs, lawyers, CPA-lawyers, engineers of various disciplines, and some technocrat-yuppies with MBAs and PhDs to their names.
Now, how on earth and in heaven’s name could the in-house, training and acquired expertise of these audit professionals be assumed by personnel in audited agencies if pre-audit will become the latter’s responsibility? Pray tell me, is it proper for an agency chief accountant, who certifies to the propriety and validity of the disbursement voucher and completeness of its supporting documents, to pre-audit activities vis-à-vis the same transaction? Can an audit of government transactions be conducted by a non-auditor?
—SANCHO “SONNY” CACERES,
retired state auditor and former editor, Ariva Newsletter,
COA Regional Office 4, QC
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