THE PRESIDENTIAL Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said in a House budget hearing on Tuesday that they have reduced the number of contractual workers after state auditors questioned its hiring of 375 temporary personnel.

PCOO Undersecretary Kristian R. Ablan said the office has reduced the number of its contractual workforce to 301 as of Aug. 15 after absorbing some of the workers into regular positions.   

“That number will continue to be reduced as we will be absorbing many of the contracts of service to the plantilla positions recently granted to us by the Department of Budget and Management,” he said.   

Mr. Ablan also said that the short-term contracts entered with some workers assigned for creatives work are currently being closed by the agency as the programs tied to these contracts are already finished.

In its 2020 annual audit report, the Commission on Audit (CoA) questioned PCOO’s basis for hiring 375 contractual workers without a written policy guidelines on availing their services. These workers comprised 71.7% of the total PCOO manpower. 

CoA cited that the accomplishment reports of the contractual employees hired as social media specialists did not reflect their actual duties or tasks.   

“The unrestricted (or) massive hiring of CoS (contract of service) personnel cost the PCOO a total amount of P70,688,830.39 for their salaries during the year, resulting in the depletion of government funds which could have been used for other programs,” CoA reported.

Meanwhile, the PCOO is proposing a P1.91-billion budget for next year, 23.3% higher than this year’s P1.549 billion.

In the 2022 program, P874.1 million would be allotted for personnel services, P721.48 million for maintenance and other operating expenses, and P315.39 million for capital outlays. Subsidies of P178.63 million would also be given to the People’s Television Network, Inc. and Intercontinental Broadcasting Corp. — Russell Louis C. Ku