THE Commission on Audit (COA) is open to amending a 2015 joint circular governing the use and auditing of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF).
At the hearing for COA’s P13.3-billion budget for 2024, Commission on Audit Chairman Gamaliel Cordoba said concerned agencies that created the Joint Circular 2015-01, or the guideline on the entitlement, release, use, reporting, and audit of confidential and intelligence funds, will convene to review the circular.
“Your suggestion is good because of the increasing confidential and intelligence funds. We will try to convene the agencies who promulgated [this circular] because 2015 has been quite a long time. That’s eight years,” said Cordoba on the queries of Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel.
“Within the third quarter of this year, we will call a meeting with other stakeholders. We will try to finish [the review] within the year, and we will update the appropriation committee and Congress about the changes,” he added.
The joint circular was issued on January 8, 2015, by the COA, Department of Budget and Management, Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations, and the Department of National Defense.
The circular refers to confidential expenses as those expenses pertaining to or related to surveillance activities in civilian government agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency.
It defines the intelligence fund as the lump sum amount provided as such in the general appropriations for the national government agencies.
Earlier, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assured taxpayers that the allocation for CIF in the 2024 proposed budget will be covered by circulars and will be properly accounted for.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the joint circular identifies the projects and programs that can be funded using CIF, pointing out a section of the joint circular detailing the disbursement procedures for the funds.
According to the budget chief, there is a P120-million increase in the confidential and intelligence funds, with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Presidential Security Group (PSG) receiving additional allocations.
The biggest allocations that drew attention, however, are those for the Office of the President and the Office of Vice President and education secretary.
House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the largest CIF is under the OP with P4.56 billion.
She added that the Office of the Vice President is again proposing P500 million in confidential funds, and the DepEd is asking for another P150 million in confidential funds, all under the control and discretion of Vice President Sara Duterte.
But looking closely, Pangandaman said that the percent share of funds in the entire budget of the national government is actually declining.
In 2018, Pangandaman said, the CIF share in the total national budget was 0.215 percent; 0.192 percent in 2019; 0.235 percent in 2020; 0.212 percent in 2021; 0.183 percent in 2022; 0.190 percent in 2023; and 0.176 percent in the 2024 budget proposal.
Still, House Deputy Minority Leader Castro said the Marcos administration has increased CIF from P10.022 billion this year to P10.142 billion, or almost P120 million more next year.