Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo shared the experiences of the Philippines’ Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) at the International Budget Partnership’s (IBP) online discussion, “Managing COVID Funds: A Global Scorecard of Accountability,” held on May 24, 2021. The discussion centered on IBP’s assessment of how countries have maintained transparency, provided oversight, and encouraged public participation in managing COVID funds.
Other panel participants included Carolina Renteria, Chief of the Planning and Finance Management Division of the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Affairs Department; and Shumani Luruli, Program Coordinator for Plan Act, a Civil Society Organization (CSO) based in South Africa. Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of Care International and a board member of IBP, moderated the discussion.
Ms. Sineiro noted that few national audit offices were able to conduct real-time or expedited audits of COVID funds, but COA was one of the exceptions. Chairperson Aguinaldo observed that since the Philippines is accustomed to emergency situations such as typhoons and earthquakes, the SAI was able to anticipate the government’s response and issue guidelines on how to audit COVID fund expenditures. Chairperson Aguinaldo also shared the SAI’s experience working with CSOs in the audits of COVID programs. He said audits do not take place in isolation but as part of the fiscal process, noting that the Philippine Congress has a Public Accounts Committee that carefully considers SAI reports and refers to them when examining the budget submitted by agencies.
The discussion sent a powerful signal that even during times of crisis, open budget practices are not only possible but essential to ensuring assistance to those most in need.