THE Commission on Audit has been urged to investigate how the Bureau of Customs spent its P17-million intelligence funds during the stewardship of former Commissioner Alberto Lina following concerns that the money might have been misused.
“Where did he [Lina] bring the funds?” said a former Customs official whose term in Customs also expired when President Benigno Aquino III stepped down on June 30.
The source, who requested anonymity, said that from 2015 to 2016 the agency was allocated P17 million in confidential funds, but Customs’ Intelligence Group only received P750,000 from Lina.
The source said Lina should account for the funds because his failure to do so might indicate their misuse.
In particular, the source called on the Commission on Audit to look into how the funds were disbursed for possible violation of laws and regulations.
He asked how Lina’s office secured clearance from CoA for the programs using the intelligence funds.
Despite the meager budget given to the intelligence group, the source said, the group achieved more than Lina’s office and their predecessors using the intelligence funds.
During his term, Lina faced conflict-of-interest issues for releasing a shipment with false import permits that were handled by 2100 Customs Brokerage or 2100 CB, one of his companies.
Lina also found himself in hot water when he transferred Customs’ Investigation Division chief, lawyer Leonardo Peralta, who was investigating the alleged Customs taxes and duties-related irregularities involving U-Freight, one of his firms, to the so-called “freezer” in the Finance department.
For the past five months before Lina stepped down as Customs commissioner, Customs failed to meet its revenue collection target, translating into a shortfall of P43.25 billion.
Records showed that in May alone, Customs recorded a deficit of P8.85 billion or about P295 million in losses per day.
The bureau collected P154.86 billion in revenues in the five months of 2016, way below its target of P198.11 billion.
Corruption in the bureau is being blamed for the poor revenue collection. Customs has always been perceived as one of the most corrupt government agencies.