Fourteen officials of the Department of Justice (DOJ) were identified by the Commission on Audit (COA) as frequent foreign travelers, spending P6.19 million out of its P7.8-million travel expenses.

The COA said in its audit report that the “14 DOJ officials/employees were frequently in attendance to various or multiple foreign meetings/fora/dialogues ranging from two to 12 times” in 2018. Their cumulative total travel expenses amounted to P6,192,115.67.

DOJ senior officials named in the report were Undersecretary Marrk Perete, who traveled to Vienna, Austria and Vientiane, Laos; and Assistant Secretary George Ortha II, who had been to Malaysia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Vienna, Austria last year.

Other DOJ personnel who travelled to Singapore, Nepal, Australia, Thailand, and New Zealand, were state counsel Analiza Ite-Manito, Bernadette Ongoco, Grace Estrada, Jomarlli Ustarez, Ma. Pamelyn Omalin, Marlyn Angeles, Mary Grace Quintana, Mary Grace Pulido, Mildred Bernandette Alvor, Nancy Lozaco, Rosario Elenea Laborte-Cuevas, and Maria Laureen Suran.

COA noted the “huge amounts of travelling expenses totalling P5.55 million” with the DOJ sending two or more DOJ employees to 23 similar types of foreign meetings/fora/dialogues, including those organized by the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

COA recommended that DOJ “submit policy or guidelines/procedures pertinent in the selection process of sending participants/attendees to foreign meetings/conferences/fora/dialogues.”

Furthermore, DOJ is to “provide a cost-efficient benefit on the said undertakings attended by the listed officials.”

Still related to these travels, “disbursement vouchers and liquidation reports pertaining to various travels during the year were not supported with complete documentation totalling P771,643.30.”

Another audit finding revealed DOJ’s procurement of airline tickets valued at P1 million from a travel agency instead of the department entering into an agreement with Government Fares Agreement (GFA) that would have saved time and money for official domestic and foreign trips.
Such non-adherence to GFA could be subject of disallowance, the COA said. (JojoMangahis / PressONE.PH)