The Commission on Audit (COA), the taxpayer's whistleblower, should be promoted as a "premier destination" for "talented and idealistic millennials" who would like "to do good by going into government service. "
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto suggested this "recruitment tack" to fill thousands of job vacancies in the independent agency which "performs the important task of being a tripwire against graft."
Likening it to a car running on half-empty, Recto said of COA's 14,102 authorized personnel positions, 6,070 are not filled, or a low appointment rate of 57 percent.
This, he said, leaves COA with only 8,032 "overworked and thinly-stretched" personnel to thoroughly audit the trillions of pesos spent by 19,081 agencies, who submit about "39 million spending vouchers annually."
Recto has been calling for a "pay more, hire more" policy to beef up the ranks of government auditors, and to properly compensate those who are already in service.
"They are not mere accountants who look into ledgers. Many are courageous servants, assigned to dangerous places, who put their lives on the line," he said.
COA has 6,733 auditors or audit examiners in its ranks, augmented by 295 engineers and architects, and 230 lawyers and special investigators, "a workforce not enough to cover all the bases," Recto said.
He said a mere 874 auditors and 14 lawyers and special investigators keep watch on spending done by agencies under the "national government sector."
"Isang halimbawa, ang DSWD, more than P100 billion ang budget, sa 4Ps pa lang ay four million plus ang beneficiaries, dagdag pa ang thousands of community projects, pero wala pa yatang 50 ang auditors," he said.
"Sa corporate government sector, 667 lang ang auditors and examiners, at 11 na abogado, walang engineers," he said.
Bulk of the COA workforce are deployed to local governments, with 4,979 auditors, 189 engineers and architects, and 67 lawyers and special investigators tasked to inspect books of cities, provinces, towns, and barangays.
The overconcentration of auditors in LGUs has prompted Recto to observe the skewed distribution, "with more assigned to local government with less money to spend than national government agencies who have so much money but fewer auditors."
The shortage of manpower has led to a situation where auditors of national government agencies are unable to follow funds which have been downloaded to regions to eventual end-users, Recto said.
"Kung kulang ang tao, gamit, at resources, hindi talaga kayang i-audit ang P3.917 trillion Total Expenses, Subsidies and Losses or TSL ng national government at P387.58 billion na TSL ng LGUs," Recto lamented. During deliberations on the 2017 national budget, Recto had repeatedly batted for the hiring of more government auditors "so that watchdogs embedded in public offices won't have a hard time doing their job."
"If the Ombudsman's staff is being strengthened, if 'integrity bodies' in revenue agencies are being given additional funds, if internal affairs units in the police and the military are being beefed up, then all the more that COA, the public's whistleblower, must have more personnel," he stressed.
To attract talent, he urged COA to bring its recruitment drive to colleges and universities, and join job fairs.
If there are casual auditors, the agency should institute a fast-track way for them to be "regularized," Recto said.
He said COA's "technical deficit" shows in the small number of engineers and architects whose number must be increased if we are building more roads, bridges under the promised "infrastructure boom" of the government.
Source: Senate of the Philippines