Supreme Court kept billions meant for treasury — COA
MANILA — Annual reports of the Commission on Audit for two years, 2008 and 2009, show that the Supreme Court did not manage its finances well and even violated executive orders that require trust funds to be deposited to the Bureau of Treasury and interest earned on fiduciary funds to be remitted to the bureau.
The COA found out that, in 2008, the Court did not deposit P4.8 billion in trust receipts. By 2009, the running total was already P5.38 billion.
COA’s recommendation to the Court to deposit these funds to the treasury remains unheeded.
The Court’s trust fund, the COA report points out, includes “fiduciary receipts” and mediation fees. Fiduciary receipts are mainly from bail bonds. (Fiduciary fund is a phrase used when government acts as a trustee, meaning it is responsible for handling the funds but does not own or use it.)
Government agencies are required to deposit these “huge amounts of cash” that they have accumulated at the end of the fiscal year with the treasury to make it available to the national government.
We were able to obtain a copy of the 2009 report (107 pages) which COA has not yet uploaded. The 2008 audit report is available on its website but it is incomplete. It doesn’t include the statement of income and expenses, the auditor’s observations and recommendations—which detail flaws in the Court’s handling of its finances. Our sources provided us a complete hard copy (97 pages).
Millions in interest unremitted
The COA reports also show that, in 2008, interest earned on fiduciary funds and forefeited and confiscated bonds that was not remitted to the treasury was P74.6 million. (Forefeited/confiscated bonds are derived from surety or cash bonds whenever the accused fails to appear in Court when summoned.)
This amount is separate from interest unremitted from 2004 to 2007 worth P132.8 million.
In 2008, Chief Justice Reynato Puno and COA agreed to implement a payment scheme to remit the backlog interest at staggered payments of P1 million every month. As of December 2009, the SC had remitted P14 million or 11 percent of the amount due, says the 2009 COA report.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, during a recent hearing on the judiciary’s budget, was surprised that the Court did not automatically deposit the trust funds and remit the interest on fiduciary funds to the treasury: “I’m not saying that there is an abuse…but it might create the impression that—not the members of the Court—but the employees of the judiciary are keeping these amounts for a reason which they should automatically remit to the Treasury. And why should it take that long for them to perform that simple function of transferring the fund from their custody to the Treasury?”
Untapped millions for allowances
It also surfaced during the same Senate hearing that the Court, as of December 2008, had P236.7 million in its current and savings accounts for allowances. These were from the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and the Special Allowance for Judges/Justices Fund or SAJ. (The JDF and SAJ are both taken from legal fees collected by the Court.)
Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the finance committee, went through the 2008 COA report with a fine-tooth comb and found these amounts from the JDF and SAJ. He walked court administrator Midas Marquez through the figures during the hearing in October.
The transcript of the hearing is quite instructive. Here are excerpts:
Drilon: “It is made to appear to our judges that the national government is neglectful of their situation because salary schedules allegedly have not been implemented…What I am pointing out is that P236.6 million which was in the savings and current account of the Supreme Court has not been distributed as allowances.”
Marquez: “…it is not an issue, the failure to distribute allowances.”
Drilon: “(For) the committee on finance, that is an issue because we are looking at the budget….if we are going to listen to your plea for additional budgets, we must look at what is available to the Supreme Court.”
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TAGS: , Chief Justice Reynato Puno, commission on audit, Supreme Court