SC applies ‘inordinate delay’ in COA case, lets DepEd Caraga execs off the hook for P18M anomaly

Applying the “inordinate delay” doctrine in a Commission on Audit (COA) proceeding, the Supreme Court (SC) has let two Department of Education (DepEd) Caraga Region officials off the hook in connection with the irregular purchase of P18.3-million worth of supplementary and reference materials.

In a recent 8-page en banc decision, the SC granted the petition of former regional accountant Elaine Navarro and chief administrative officer Raul Orozco assailing the COA’s November 9, 2016 ruling that disallowed the transaction made in 2008.

The SC noted that it took the COA proper “more than seven years” to come up with its decision, counted from the issuance of February 17, 2009 audit observation memorandum (AOM) that first flagged the irregularity.

There was also a five-year lull counted from the COA Regional Office’s issuance of its August 23, 2011 decision to reduce the disallowance to P11.04 million, which was subject of the COA proper’s automatic review.

The SC said the COA proper erred when it held that Navarro and Orozco failed to show that the delay was vexatious or oppressive. It stressed that the State had the burden to prove that the delay was reasonable.

“The substantial amount involved is a Sword of Damocles hovering over petitioners’ heads subjecting them to constant distress and worry,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes, Jr.

“As such, the COA should have been more circumspect in observing petitioners’ rights to speedy disposition of cases and not to set it aside trivially,” it added.

The transaction arose from the requests of then-Surigao del Norte 1st District Rep. Francisco Matugas and 2nd District Rep. Guillermo Romarate, Jr. addressed to then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Then-Education Secretary Jesli Lapus approved the requests.

But, auditors questioned the purchases because Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) Order Number 25, series of 1999, and Department Orders Number 38 and 52, series of 2007, imposed a moratorium on the procurement of supplementary and reference materials.

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