Rio from DICT resigns after being kept in the dark about confidential P300-M fund
Former Deputy Secretary Eliseo Rio of the Department of Information and Communications Technology revealed on Monday that he resigned his post after DICT chief Gregorio Honasan kept him away from the how the agency had spent 300 million pesos in confidential funds.
Rio made the disclosure when it sought confirmation on an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) from the Commission on the audit dated Jan. 20 which indicated that DICT had disbursed a total of 300 million pesos under the form of three advances of 100 million pesos each on November 8 and December 3 and December 17, 2019.
All cash advances were for confidential expenditure and none had received a Fund Allocation Notice (NCA) from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The NCA is a disbursement authorization issued by DBM to central, regional and provincial offices and operational units to cover the cash flow needs of the agencies before the processing and release of cash advances.
“Yes this [observation] was in the AOM. My position is that the DICT does not need confidential information or funds because it is not [within] its mandate to carry out intelligence or surveillance activities. But Secretary Honasan’s position is that it is necessary for him, ”Rio told GMA News Online.
Rio then argued that as an operations undersecretary he should at least be briefed on how these confidential expenses were being used in DICT operations.
“Since I am not included in the planning process for the use of these confidential funds and it is limited to the people Honasan brought with him, I felt left out and useless and as such I could too. well quit because I’m not trustworthy, ”Rio added.
GMA News had asked Honasan for comment on the matter, but the DICT secretary had yet to respond at the time of publication.
DICT has said it will no longer comment on Rio’s resignation.
Rio served as interim head of DICT before Honasan, a former senator, was appointed to the post by President Rodrigo Duterte in November 2018.
Honasan was sworn in in July 2019 after his appointment was approved by the Nominations Commission, whose members included former colleagues from the Honasan Senate.
Undocumented confidential fund charges
In its AOM, the COA flagged the DICT for using previously issued NCAs to release confidential expenses due to its huge unused budget from the previous fiscal year.
The COA said that while agencies are allowed to use the available balances of fully released NCAs, these balances can only be used to cover the payment of accounts payable for the current year and the previous year.
“COA was requested for ACNs issued in 2018 and 2019, the schedule of distribution of monthly balances of the monthly disbursement program was also requested from the director of finance of the officer in charge. To date, none of these documents have been submitted and received by the audit team, which deprives them of the opportunity to conduct further verification of the relevant documents, ”the COA said.
“There must be expenses already incurred but not yet paid, in the form of goods and services delivered / rendered or projects completed, in order to validly use and disburse cash authorized by a previously issued NCA. In the event of confidential expenditure, the common circular [between COA and the agencies] in particular prohibits the use of the cash advance as reimbursement of expenses prior to the granting of the cash advance, ”added the COA.
Delayed disbursement, mandate not completed
State auditors also found a five-month delay in processing the advance of funds for the ministry’s planned cybersecurity program and activities.
“The GAA (General Appropriations Act) for 2019 was signed on April 15, 2019. However, it is observed that the advance of funds for confidential funds was not processed until October to November 2019. This left the Department very little time to accomplish its desired Cybersecurity Program, Activity and Projects, in order to produce expected results and physical targets in the current year, ”COA said.
“All of these noted gaps have had a negative impact and are counter-beneficial to the Ministry’s mandate to coordinate cybersecurity policies and programs,” added the ACO.
Based on the DICT monthly disbursement schedule for fiscal year 2019, the DICT is expected to spend 7.1 billion pesos from July to December 2019, with 4.4 billion pesos to be disbursed from July to October 2019 and 2, 6 billion pesos to be disbursed from November to December operations.
Previously issued ACNs, however, only covered 1.8 billion pesos, and it was certified that only 446,221,387 million pesos remained in the sub-account of the ministry’s amended disbursement system as of November 6, 2019.
The COA had given the DICT 15 days from receipt of the said findings to submit its comments on the findings of the State auditors. – DVM, GMA News