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The Commission is a trustworthy, respected and independent audit institution that ensures accountability for public resources, promotes transparency, and helps improve government operations.

History of the Commission on Audit

Since the Spanish colonial era, auditing has been used for effective governance. In 1739, a Royal Decree by the King of Spain established the royal exchequer which was the national treasury. All books of accounts of the Spanish colonial government were required to pass through the scrutiny and certification of the contador or the accountant, who by the nature of his duties may be considered as the precursor of the auditor.

On May 8, 1899, President William McKinley signed a memorandum that brought about the Office of the Auditor for the Philippine Islands. By 1900, the Office had become a fixture of government. The civil government was then formally ushered in 1901 under William Howard Taft and the Office of the Auditor of the Philippine Islands became the Bureau of the Insular Auditor. During this time, a double-entry bookkeeping was introduced which accounted for fuller analysis of settlements and ensured a higher degree of accuracy. In 1905, under Governor General Luke E. Wright, Act No. 1402 was passed whereby the Bureau of the Insular Auditor was renamed the Bureau of Audits.

In 1935, the Constitution expressly included a General Auditing Office, elevating the audit institution to a constitutional body. Renamed as the General Auditing Office or GAO, it now embarked on a full Filipinization of the institution as a reflection of the government-wide transition to self-governance headed by Hon. Jaime Hernandez. The GAO was placed under the direction and control of an Auditor General to separate it as an organization from the Executive and other departments of the government.

In 1972, under Martial Law the GAO was renamed the Commission on Audit (COA) and was granted broader powers under the new Constitution promulgated in 1973. The new Constitution provided for a three-man collegial Commission on Audit. This change aimed to strengthen the independence of the auditing office and improve the quality of its decisions, given the rationale that a three-man body was less susceptible to pressure than an office held by a single person.

The Commission became a landmark legislation on auditing as decreed in 1978. A Standard Government Chart of Accounts was also issued and facilitated financial audit for computerization purposes. The Commission also implemented its comprehensive audit program focusing on the 3Es: economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Installation of this program represented a break from traditions of compliance and voucher audit. This era will also be remembered for the significant involvement of COA in international events such as initiating the establishment of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI), on to sponsorships of trainings for Asia’s auditors and culminating with the hosting of the XI International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions (INCOSAI) in 1983. It was also during this time that a COA Chairman was first elected to the United Nations Board of Auditors.

The 1987 Constitution maintained the independence of the Commission on Audit as the supreme auditing arm of the Philippine government. The Constitution reiterated COA’s role as the sole official external auditor of government agencies as well as government-owned- and-controlled corporations (GOCCs).

(Source: Commission on Audit website)