Friday, September 23, 2011

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2011/september2011/193677.htm

As held in National Electrification Administration v. Commission on Audit,[23] the ruling in Guevara cited by petitioners has already been overturned by the Court in Caltex Philippines, Inc. v. Commission on Audit.[24] The Court explained[25] that under the 1935 Constitution, the Auditor General could not correct irregular, unnecessary, excessive or extravagant expenditures of public funds, but could only bring the matter to the attention of the proper administrative officer. Under the 1987 Constitution, however, the COA is vested with the authority to determine whether government entities, including LGUs, comply with laws and regulations in disbursing government funds, and to disallow illegal or irregular disbursements of these funds.

Section 2, Article IX-D of the Constitution gives a broad outline of the powers and functions of the COA, to wit:

Section 2. (1) The Commission on Audit shall have the power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, and on a post-audit basis: (a) constitutional bodies, commissions and offices that have been granted fiscal autonomy under this Constitution; (b) autonomous state colleges and universities; (c) other government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries; and (d) such non-governmental entities receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the Government, which are required by law or the granting institution to submit to such audit as a condition of subsidy or equity. However, where the internal control system of the audited agencies is inadequate, the Commission may adopt such measures, including temporary or special pre-audit, as are necessary and appropriate to correct the deficiencies. It shall keep the general accounts of the Government and, for such period as may be provided by law, preserve the vouchers and other supporting papers pertaining thereto.

(2) The Commission shall have exclusive authority, subject to the limitations in this Article, to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods required therefor, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations, including those for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures, or uses of government funds and properties.[26]

Section 11, Chapter 4, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 echoes this constitutional mandate to COA.

Under the first paragraph of the above provision, the COA's audit jurisdiction extends to the government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. Its jurisdiction likewise covers, albeit on a post-audit basis, the constitutional bodies, commissions and offices that have been granted fiscal autonomy, autonomous state colleges and universities, other government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, and such non-governmental entities receiving subsidy or equity from or through the government. The power of the COA to examine and audit government agencies cannot be taken away from it as Section 3, Article IX-D of the Constitution mandates that “no law shall be passed exempting any entity of the Government or its subsidiary in any guise whatever, or any investment of public funds, from the jurisdiction of the [COA].”

Pursuant to its mandate as the guardian of public funds, the COA is vested with broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of public funds and property.[27] This includes the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods for such review, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.[28] The COA is endowed with enough latitude to determine, prevent and disallow irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures of government funds.[29] It is tasked to be vigilant and conscientious in safeguarding the proper use of the government's, and ultimately the people's, property.[30] The exercise of its general audit power is among the constitutional mechanisms that gives life to the check and balance system inherent in our form of government.[31]

The Court had therefore previously upheld the authority of the COA to disapprove payments which it finds excessive and disadvantageous to the Government; to determine the meaning of “public bidding” and when there is failure in the bidding; to disallow expenditures which it finds unnecessary according to its rules even if disallowance will mean discontinuance of foreign aid; to disallow a contract even after it has been executed and goods have been delivered.[32]

Thus, LGUs, though granted local fiscal autonomy, are still within the audit jurisdiction of the COA.

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