BY LEANDER C. DOMINGO
ILOCOS NORTE: A rare feat for any local government unit (LGU), the Commission on Audit (CoA) gave the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) the highest degree of audit opinion for 2020.
In a letter to Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc, lawyer Chito Janaban, CoA Region 1 director, said they rendered an “unmodified opinion” on the fairness of presentation of the financial statements for reasons stated in the CoA’s Independent Auditor’s Report.
In auditing parlance, an unmodified opinion is made by an auditor when financial statements are prepared, in all material respects, in accordance with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) as well as applicable regulations.
Gayfelyn Labayan, CoA audit leader assigned at the PGIN Capitol, said only a few government agencies and LGUs in the country have been accorded by CoA with “unmodified opinion,” considered as the highest degree of audit opinion.
“It is the first time the province was rendered an unmodified opinion by CoA,” said Maria Teresa Tolentino, CoA supervising auditor for Ilocos Norte, adding that the PGIN is worthy of the unmodified audit opinion for 2020.
Labayan and Tolentino added that the PGIN was commended for its prompt action in addressing audit findings and recommendations which they consider as “immaterial as compared to the province’s financial position of P6.24 billion as of December 31, 2020.”
They noted that the provincial management has promptly provided CoA the needed explanation and compliance action plan among the few audit observations, particularly on the hiring of consultants to strengthen the province’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response.
“The courses of action submitted showed substantial compliance and thus the services of the hired consultants will not be disallowed in audit and PGIN may continue to hire their services,” the CoA officers said.
MODEL TO OTHER LGU
The CoA expressed hopes that the degree of compliance to IPSAS and applicable rules and regulations by the PGIN will be “incessant and will serve as an example/model to other local government units.”
The auditing body officers and the PGIN’s local finance committee (LFC) have attributed this achievement to Manotoc who they consider a “dependable and trustworthy leader and whose inspiring work creates ripples of public service excellence among provincial employees.”
“With the governor’s guidance, the LFC which is composed of the provincial treasury, budget office, accounting office and the planning and development office, together with the provincial administrator and department heads worked with efficiency and dedication, thereby producing very good outcomes,” the CoA noted.
In 2019, Manotoc was inducted by SuperBrands International in its Hall of Fame of outstanding local leaders.
Janaban said the audit was conducted to ascertain the propriety of financial transactions and compliance with prescribed rules and regulations and that it was also made to ascertain the accuracy of financial records and reports, as well as the fairness of the presentation of financial statements.
He also noted that a “value-for-money” audit was also conducted to assess or determine whether the resources of the province were utilized economically, efficiently and effectively.
According to Tolentino, the CoA has disallowed in a previous year the distribution of “Performance Enhancement Incentive” to provincial employees but this was reversed upon the appeal making the PGIN currently free of disallowances and suspensions by the auditing body.
GOOD GOVERNANCE AND TRANSPARENCY
In Laoag City, Northwestern University-based political scientist Karl Lenin Benigno observed that through the years, Ilocos Norte has shown a strong commitment to good governance and transparency.
In September 2016, Benigno noted that less than three months through the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, Ilocos Norte became the first province in the Philippines to pass a Freedom of Information (FoI) ordinance and that up to date, only 13 provinces have approved FoI ordinances.
He also complimented the provincial leadership for initiating “Open Capitol” activities where citizens are oriented about the functions and programs of the different offices of the provincial government.
Moreover, Ilocos Norte was the first province in the country granted with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 certification. In 2013, during the term of governor, now Senator Imee Marcos, the province was also the first province nationwide to ever receive full ISO 9001:2008 certification.
ISO is a non-governmental organization composed of experts in products, services, and systems who create standards of management to ensure quality, safety and efficiency.