THE Senate finance committee yesterday skipped the proposed 2012 budget allocation for the Office of the President (OP) and instead bared a 2009 Commission on Audit report that the OP in the previous Arroyo administration racked up unliquidated cash advances in the total amount of P594,040,619.70, mostly on foreign travels .

Appearing before the budget hearing, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa volunteered additional information that while the COA report for 2010 has yet to be released, their internal accounting showed that the OP, as of December 31, 2010, also incurred unliquidated cash advances totaling P571,190,306.

"This shows the impunity and disregard of the previous administration to what was appropriated and an abuse of (the Arroyo administration’s) fiscal authorization (given by Congress)" said Sen. Franklin Drilon, finance committee chairman.

Drilon, an administration ally, disclosed that in 2009, the OP was only appropriated P30 million in travel expenses but disbursed a total of P848 million for foreign travel and P92.5 million in local trips. As of August this year, Drilon said, the amount of unliquidated disbursements included P367 million in cash advances.

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