Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 18) — The Commission on Audit (COA) said that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) illegally hired a private lawyer as a legal consultant.
In a report on the 2021 budget released last week, auditors said Vice President Leni Robredo’s move in the past year violated COA rules because the OVP did not have permission from the COA and Solicitor General.
The audit team added that there was no reason for the ÖVP to hire a legal consultant as it had created a legal affairs division as part of its efforts to strengthen the office.
“Given the absence of written compliance and acquiescence from the Solicitor General and the written agreement of the COA, and despite the presence of legal officers, the payments made to the legal consultant are considered improper and unnecessary expenses,” said said the COA.
The OVP said the consultant worked as a policy adviser, as opposed to lawyers who perform routine legal services such as drafting contract reviews. He also indicated that he had asked the Office of the President to create posts for political advisers, including a consultant.
The president’s office apparently did not respond to the request, so the ÖVP said it had to resort to a consultancy agreement.
However, the COA rejected the explanation, saying salaries paid to the consultant from January 2020 to July 2021 will be withheld and those who approved the payments should be held accountable for the denial.
The COA issued the notice of rejection in April 2022, which is currently under appeal.
The ÖVP received an unqualified opinion for four years from 2018 to 2021. This is the highest audit rating given to a government agency.
The COA has previously clarified that an audit opinion is a statement as to whether the financial statements are prepared in accordance with standards.