COA scores UP Diliman’s P177K excessive meal expenses

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State auditors scored the research staff of the University of the Philippines Diliman DREAM program over its excessive expenses for meals amounting to P177,345.2 in 2015.

In its annual audit report in 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) the premier state university’s Research Extension and Professional Staff (REPS) were sent out to different places to gather data, conduct survey, attend/participate in exhibits, and for other purposes.

In their researches, the staff of the Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (DREAM) Program incurred an excessive payment of P177,345.2 for fine dining in restaurants, hotels and resorts, which went beyond the P400 limit per employee of authorized meal allowance and incidental expenses, COA said.

“It was observed that the field personnel have gone beyond the limits of their authorized meal allowance and incidental expenses totaling P400 per employee per day,” COA said.

“We noted that the field personnel ate in fine dining restaurants/resorts and even in hotels which prices of food served are unreasonably high, when there are restaurants that cater at reasonable prices without sacrificing the quality and safety of the food that are to be consumed by them,” COA added.

COA said this amount is disallowable in audit.

“The total of P177,345.20 was found to be excess payments for meals on various travels of the DREAM personnel,” COA said.

COA reminded the UP Diliman management to be prudent in spending traveling expenses on meals during research travel.

“We wish to emphasize that government funds and property should be fully protected and conserved, and that irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, unconscionable expenditures or uses of such funds and property should be prevented,” COA said.

The Project Leader justified that the actual travelling expense claimed (lodging and meals included) was resorted to because this was allowable under Section 4 of Executive Order 298, which states that “Claims for reimbursement of actual travel expenses in excess of the travel expenses authorized herein may be allowed upon certification by the head of agency concerned as absolutely necessary in the performance of an assignment and presentation of bills and receipts.”

COA maintained its stand that the DREAM personnel should have exercised prudence in spending government funds.

“The Audit Team maintained their previous stand on the matter because the actual meals collected by the project personnel went beyond reasonable limits, eating in fine dining restaurants, resorts and hotels is deemed extravagant, unreasonable and impractical considering that what the employee is spending is government funds that has to be conserved, and the austerity measures be continuously adopted,” COA said.

“Moreover, as a government hired contractual/ employed, the sense of prudency has to be observed in all government dealings,” COA added.