Toledo defies Supreme Court

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Friday, May 30, 2014

CEBU CITY -- State auditors called the attention of Toledo City officials for defying a Supreme Court (SC) order to return about P12 million in unspent pork barrel funds of then third district congressman Pablo John Garcia and three senators.

The Commission on Audit’s (COA) audit report on the transactions of the Toledo City Government for 2013 found 50 discrepancies and irregularities, including violations of an SC decision, government audit rules, accounting and budget circulars.

Among other violations that COA cited is the failure of the City to implement funded projects worth P32.5 million, the failure to secure titles for government properties worth P33 million, and its failure to collect payment from the lessee of a beach property.


COA also noted that Mayor John Henry Osmeña continues to receive transportation allowance even if there are four government cars issued to him, which violates Department of Budget and Management (DBM) rules.

Sought for comment on the unspent Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Garcia, Senator Pia Cayetano and then senator Manuel Villar, Osmena said the money is in a trust fund deposited in the bank.

“We are ready to return it to DBM (Department of Budget Management) the moment we are so ordered,” said Osmeña.

He said it is not COA’s business to order them to return the funds, but DBM’s.

The audit report showed that from 2010 to 2013, the City received a total of P40.5 million from the PDAF of Senator Loren Legarda, Cayetano, Villar and then congressman Garcia.

Requests from barangay

A bulk of the amount, P38.5 million, was from Garcia’s PDAF.

Of the amount, P12.378 million remains unused.

“That was intended to address funding requests from barangays for their specific projects,” said Garcia, when asked what the funds were for.

He said the requests had to comply with DBM’s list of allowable projects.

In an exit conference with the auditors, city officials said that they would check if there is a way for the City to keep the funds and use the money for development projects.

As for the P9,000 monthly transportation allowance that Osmeña receives despite the four vehicles issued to him, COA said it violates DBM Local Budget Circular 103, which states that those who use government vehicles are not entitled to a monthly transportation allowance.

Personal car

But Osmeña said he avails himself of the transportation allowance because he uses his personal cars for his official functions.

He said that when he assumed as mayor, he appointed four officials and the vehicles assigned to each of them were temporarily issued to him pending their appointment.

The cars had long been transferred to the four officials.

State auditors also reported that 11 development projects worth P35.2 million have not been implemented, “thus the desired output was not achieved, depriving its constituents of the benefits.”

The mayor said he would implement the projects this year.

During the exit conference with COA, Osmeña instructed the city engineer to identify the unimplemented projects and prepare the program of work and estimates.

Properly inventory

COA also inventoried the City’s properties and learned that 191 parcels of land valued at P33 million and with a total land area of 95.66 hectares are not titled under the City Government’s name.

It violates the State Audit Code of the Philippines, “and affects the agency’s claim of ownership over the properties.”

The General Services Office (GSO) told COA that the City is processing the titles. GSO officials said the City has engaged the services of a private surveyor, but it would need another six months to one year to finish the titling.

COA also noted the purchase of P3.3 million worth of medicines without the supporting documents required by the Department of Health, thus there is no assurance that the medicines were obtained from authorized sources, if they are safe and effective.

The auditors directed the city accountant to secure the documents from the City’s bids and awards committee and submit it to the auditor to support the payment of P3.3 million.

Documentary compliance

Auditors also directed the city officials to make sure that all documents are in order before any payment is made.

The city accountant assured the auditors during the exit conference that she will instruct the pre-audit section of the accounting department to strictly comply with documentary requirements of each transaction before forwarding it to the other departments for signature and approval.

The COA also noted that the City failed to terminate its lease contract with Exclusive Hotel and Resort Management despite the non-payment of its monthly rental and monthly share on gross revenue to the City totaling P1.878 million.

This is contrary to the terms and conditions of the lease contract, “thereby depriving the government of the much needed funds for its operation and causing undue disadvantage to the City,” the auditor said.

Osmeña said the City is terminating the contract, but they first need to get the approval of the City Council.

“I don’t know if they will approve it because (if they do), they will admit that they erred from the start. It was Vice Mayor Dayde Zambo and the others who made the contract,” Osmeña said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 31, 2014.

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