COA mulls special audit of task force dealing with communist insurgency

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MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) is considering the need for a special audit of the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), according to COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo.

Aguinaldo gave that answer on Wednesday to a question asked by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate during the hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations on the proposed 2021 budget of COA.

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Zarate noted that funds channeled to the task force in previous years were difficult to find in budget records.

“We’re looking into it — if a special audit would be needed,” Aguinaldo said, speaking partly in Filipino. “What happened was the initial funding, if I recall correctly, would come from the budget of different agencies involved. That’s why it’s hard to find — because we have to check where they got the funds and if they really spent all of it on that.”

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He said the audit would have to start with the member-agencies of the task force where the funds were sourced.

“Now, how they actually expended it — we have to look at the disbursement voucher — where it went, what the agency attributes to that program [for which the NTF-ELCAC was created],” he explained.

“Once they trace it, we will know if we’ll need to do a special audit particularly on those expenditures, or if the audit done by the different audit agencies will be sufficient. That’s something we still have to determine,” he added.

According to him, it’s not unusual for a president to issue an executive order creating a task force with different agencies as members. But he noted that the budget of the NTF-ELAC was “quite big.”

“So it’s something that we have to look at carefully because the amount of money involved is not typical. You have this task force involving different departments. Those are issues that will really be looked at,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 in 2018 to create NTF-ELCAC, which was tasked with finding ways to end the decades-long communist insurgency.

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