COA: BI errs in implementing Duterte order, loses ₱869 million

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  • BI collects ₱500 for each application when aliens register, extend stay, or change status
  • Duterte ordered not to use collected fees; BI stopped collecting altogether
  • Collection dropped 60.5 percent from ₱1 billion in 2016
  • BI says it relocated all ₱568 million collected fees to General Fund as per Duterte, COA instruction
  • BI has unutilized equipment worth ₱8 million

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) lost ₱869 million in express lane fees after erring in the implementation of an order from President Rodrigo Duterte, the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed.

In an annual audit report released on Monday, the COA noted the President's Veto Message, dated December 22, 2016, which "directly [vetoes] the use of express lane charges collected by the BI."

However, the BI stopped collecting the fees altogether.

"The team believes that it is only the use of express lane charges collected that was vetoed by the President and not the collection from express lane charges," the COA wrote in its report.

The exact amount lost totaled to ₱869,235,102.71, starting from when the BI stopped collecting fees in June until the audit ends in December 2017. This was a 60.5 percent decrease from over ₱1 billion in fees collected in 2016.

The President's message also added, "Without a separate substantive law as legal basis, the collected fees from the express lane charges should now be deposited as income of the General Fund."

The BI collected ₱568,519,310.92 between January and May 2017, but the COA noted that only ₱56,851,931.09 of that was recognized in the General Fund, contrary to the President's instruction.

The remaining ₱511,667,379.83 was recorded under the Trust Liabilities account.

A comment from the BI on the audit report said the balance had already been transferred to the General Fund, "leaving only the maintaining bank balance for the trust account."

The COA asked for a justification for terminating the collection. It added, "In the future, Management (the BI) should also consider the effects of its decision in the government as a whole."

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval told CNN Philippines they have yet to study the report.

According to the COA, express lane fees are collected from applicant aliens or other persons for the smooth processing of applications for registration, extension of stay, conversion of status, and legalization. Each application costs ₱500.

The President's message noted that the fees were used to pay the salaries of casual and contractual personnel, confidential agents, and job order employees. It was also used for overtime pay and the payment of health insurance premium.

In the audit report, COA said the BI was able to collect fees for the first half of 2017. It discontinued collection after it learned its appeal for reconsideration was not likely to be approved.

Unutilized equipment worth P8 million

The COA also found P8,937,378.28 worth of equipment that remained unutilized for between a month to more than three years.

The equipment, which was stored at the stockroom of the Property Section and Management Information System Division (MISD), consists of the following:

  • 84 units of flat fingerprint scanners worth P7.6 million
  • 28 monitors and 23 CPUs of desktop computers worth P793,000
  • 4 units of 43" LFD TVs worth P326,000
  • 15 units of 23.6" curved TVs worth P200,000

The COA concluded that the idle status of the equipment meant these were "not crucial" to the BI operations.

"Hence, its procurement is unnecessary and not properly planned and coordinated, resulting in the wastage of government resources," the COA wrote.

The MISD said the desktop computers were intended for the new Mactan Cebu Airport which opened last month, and "are ready for deployment anytime now."

It also reported that the four LFD TVs and eight curved TVs were deployed to the Operations Division of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 last April. One curved TV unit went to the personnel section, while the remaining six are still with MISD.

The Property Management Section (PMS) noted that the 84 unused finger scanners were part of 90 units intended for an Alien Registration Project. Six have since been deployed to the MISD.

The PMS recommended that the MISD and Alien Registration Division "immediately decide" what to do with the units and "take appropriate actions by deploying (them)."

In its 2015 Annual Audit report, the COA also noted more idle equipment, particularly 350 more finger print scanners, 10 units of document scanners, and 350 web cameras. The PMS noted 242 cameras and finger scanners were still serviceable, but 108 units had to be disposed.

CNN Philippines Senior Researcher Ella Hermonio contributed to this report.

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