2 PIA officers resign over ‘financial irregularities’

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MANILA — Two personnel of the state-run Philippine Information Agency (PIA) have reportedly resigned from their posts after an internal fact-finding inquiry launched by the office revealed irregularities involving its Finance Management Division.

Denying information that he had fired key finance personnel in PIA, Director General Harold Clavite, in an interview on March 26, confirmed that he created an independent committee in September last year to look into miscalculations in the division.

“I cannot fire permanent personnel of government as their tenure are covered by the Civil Service Commission. There were a number of questionable transactions and some of them turned out to be made without prior approval by my office,” Clavite said.

The two officers, he said, voluntarily resigned from office in November 2018.

The said transactions include wrong charging and misappropriation of funds. It was reported that certain government rules and procedures allowing the release of funds may have been bypassed.

The fact-finding committee reported that “there were forms for fund transfer where the authorized signatory (were) changed from ‘head of the agency’ to officials of (PIA’s) finance management division.”

This means that some officers have made themselves the signatory to these forms and have been releasing funds from government-owned Landbank of the Philippines, even without the prior approval and knowledge of the head of the agency.

Suspicions of misconduct surfaced after certain amounts have appeared unreconcilable in PIA’s cash books.

According to other sources within the organization, the internal inquiry has sent shivers to officers who reportedly violated administrative policies.

Two months since the committee began checking the irregularities at the Finance Management Division, its chief of finance and deputy officer submitted their resignation letters. Both of them filed their resignation in late November last year while the inquiry was ongoing.

The Commission on Audit (COA) has reportedly been apprised of such matters. COA Circular 2012-003, dated Oct. 29, 2012, states that under Section 33 of Presidential Decree 1445, the commission “shall promulgate such auditing and accounting rules and regulations as shall prevent irregular, unnecessary, excessive, or extravagant expenditures or uses of government funds or property.”

The PIA management is currently studying appropriate charges that will be filed against the accountable officers as they await the final report from the fact finding committee. If proven guilty of manipulation and illegal transfer of funds, those accountable will face administrative cases and other sanctions demanded by the court.

Clavite, a former digital content manager for the United Nations, also said that these actions are vital to PIA’s operations and “to maintain integrity and transparency in the organization.”

He said funds need to be properly managed to be able to fit into its priorities in support of the priority agenda of the administration.

Clavite reiterated that the primary goal of the inquiry is to improve existing financial systems, processes, and policies.

“We look forward to due process when the time comes and we do not aim to accuse nor single out anyone here. We are at the stage of establishing facts with the primary goal of establishing a more stringent set of policies adhering to government rules and regulations. To uphold the integrity of the organization, we want to move forward with better systems and stronger business processes,” he said.

Clavite, who was appointed to the position by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, said there is an urgent need to update the agency’s equipment as well as provide staff training that would enable them to adapt to fast-evolving communication trends.

Anti-corruption is high on the agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte ‘s administration and he has repeatedly emphasized his abhorrence of corruption in the government. -PNA

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