Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs
By EDD K. USMAN
Short URL: https://wp.me/paaccn-cht
(SDN) — The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) under Secretary/CEO and lawyer Saidamen B. Pangarungan has rejected the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) regarding the Hajj 2019 operation.
He assured the disbursements were all “documented and accounted for.”
“All of the expenses paid coming from the mutawiff (service) fees of the 7,243 pilgrims in the 2019 Hajj (are) documented and accounted for. Not one peso is missing in our books. Neither is there any showing of misappropriation,” Pangarungan emphasized.
He was referring to the 2020 Annual Audit Report (AAR) about disbursements the NCMF made during the 2019 Hajj, or the Pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The NCMF head described the report as “unbalanced.”
He explained that the mutawiff fees are paid by the pilgrims and, therefore, not from the General Appropriations Act (GAA), meaning they are not public money. The NCMF kept the mutawiff fees in a Trust Fund separate from the GAA funds.
Required documents already with COA ahead of report
Pangarungan explained further that the “mutawiff is meant to pay for all the services incurred by the pilgrims during the Hajj. Not being government funds, we express reservation on the jurisdiction of COA’s prying eyes on this purely private fund.”
The NCMF head also emphasized that the Commission had already provided COA with the relevant documents and justifications as evidence of the propriety of the disbursements that the audit agency had took note of.
These are 1. Certificate of Financial Clearance that Maad al-Masiyah (MAAD) Company issued to the Philippine Consul General showing that the NCMF had already fully paid all its obligations and accountabilities in relation with its contract with MAAD for hotel accommodation; 2. Confirmation of the Official Receipt that MAAD issued to the Philippine Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; 3. Official Receipts and justifications that the hotel provider issued that addressed the observed discrepancies by COA.
Pangarungan said that know is aware that MAAD and other Saudi hotels do not, and has never, maintained record of guest list because of the huge number of 2 to 3 million pilgrims (before the pandemic) that were billeted in Saudi hotels during the annual pilgrimage.
The NCMF secretary said COA had already received all the pertinent documentation before crafting its audit report on the Commission but only noted the various submissions for further validation.
“This Commission is disappointed that such validation has not been done before the drafting of their Annual Audit Report despite the Commission’s faithful compliance to all the Audit Observation Memoranda regarding the 2019 Hajj,” Pangarungan lamented, obviously disappointed.
He said the Commission wondered if COA was “engaged in fault-finding.
“Regardless, this Commission continues to be extremely proud of its achievement in the 2019 Hajj. For the first time in the history of the NCMF and its precursor agencies, there has been unprecedented improvement of services. In the 2019 Hajj, the 7,243 pilgrims were billeted to their full satisfaction in 5-star hotels in front of Prophet Mohammad Mosque (Masjid Nabawi) in Madinah and in 4.7 star hotels in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, compared to substandard accommodations in the past where pilgrims were billeted in decrepit hotels far from the two Holy Mosques.
“In one past Hajj pilgrimage, the NCMF was sued by a hotel provider in Saudi courts for the non-payment of Php12 million in hotel accommodations. However, the present Commission had successfully negotiated with creditors to waive the debts incurred by previous NCMF administrations. If MAAD was not fully paid their hotel fees as insinuated in the COA audit report, why is it that NCMF did not receive any demand letter nor a court summon or subpoena after more than two years since the 2019 hajj,” the NCMF secretary asked in retrospective.
On job orders (JOs)
Pangarungan also explained the justification behind the decision to hire job order (JO) employees, saying this was necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic as only 15 percent to 20 percent of NCMF workforce were able to report for work in line with the Civil Service Commission (CSC)-mandated alternative work arrangements allowing employees to work from home (WFH).
“The COA should shift its parivethe unique challenges of the times, instead of finding fault on conventional grounds such as mere duplicity f functions.”
He added that the NCMF actually finds the timing to hire jo orders as an accomplishment because Muslim Filipinos were not spared from the lay offs and joblessness brought about the lockdowns and quarantine.
Pangarungan pointed to COA-DBM (Department of the Budget) Joint Circular 1 series of 2020, also known as the “Interi Guidelines Governing Contract of Service (COS) and Job Order (JO) Workers in Government” that highlights the need for JO employees in the time of the pandemic.
About unliquidated cash advances
He said that in his administration only 10.25 percent cash advances were not liquidated while 89.75 percent of all the cash advances were incurred in the previous administrations in the first six years since the passage of the NCMF’s Charter, Republic Act No. 9997 (NCMF Act).
He said he alread instructed the NCMF Finance and Management Service to collect and re-send demand letters to accountable officials who have yet to liquidate cash advances made in their respective names.
On “high-end” electronic gadgets
“We have already ordered the BAC (Bids and Award Committee) to provide the COA with the purchase requests indicating the justification. However, this Commission finds it obvious that additional two (2) laptps, tablets and cameras apart from the 220 already procured are absolutely needed for a Commission with 924 plantilla positions.
“This Commission also denied that these gadgets are unnecessarily high-end for the technological requirements of a functioning national government agency during a global pandemic,” said the NCMF secretary.
“In fine, the NCMF is working on its formal reply and agency action plan to the findings appearing in the subject Annual Audit Report within the reglamentary period. This Commission is confident that the COA will find this Commission’s plan of action and additional submissions to be in order, he said. (✓)
Featured image of Ka’aba at center of Makkah Grand Mosque courtesy of and thanks to @izuddinhelmi and Unsplash.