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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MEMBER of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo will not receive the P50,000 cash gift from the provincial government as he believes that the grant is irregular.

Third district Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr. said he ordered his staff to have his name deleted from the cash gift payroll.

“I will not receive any amount of this cash gift because I believe it is illegal and will be later disallowed,” Defensor said. 

Defensor said he already voiced his objection to the additional P40,000 cash gift on top of the P10,000 Productivity Enhancement Incentive mandated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Defensor was present in the initial discussion of the extra cash gift during the SP’s marathon hearing Friday last week. But he did not attend the final discussion and approval of the grant in the afternoon as he attended a speaking engagement in Guimbal town.

Defensor said it would be awkward for him to receive the grant when he opposed it in the first place.

He also described the grant as “dead on arrival” as it exceeds the 45% personal services (PS) cap of the 2009 annual budget.

“The DBM and the Commission on Audit (CoA) will disallow this grant and the employees will have to refund the amount if it overshoots the PS cap,” Defensor said.

The PS cap refers to the maximum budget for the salaries and benefits of a local government unit in a given fiscal year.

Board Member Richard Garin of the 1st district said he also believes that the extra cash gift is illegal.

Still he will receive the entire P50,000 but will keep the extra P40,000 so he can refund the amount in case the DBM and CoA disallows the grant.

“I will receive and use the P10,000 because I am entitled for it but I will keep the P40,000 just in case we are required to refund the amount. I will give the P10,000 to my constituents,” Garin said.

Garin was on leave when the SP deliberated and approved the extra cash gift last week.

Other SP members who were not present during the approval of the grant were Jesus “JR” Salcedo and Jeneda Salcedo.

The DBM had advised the provincial government to wait for the agency’s review of the appropriation ordinance granting the extra cash gift.

But Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. said they will take the risk and release the money to the employees so they can enjoy a bountiful holiday amidst the economic crunch.

The provincial accounting and treasurer’s office are working overtime to release the cash gift before Christmas break this week.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial board unanimously approved Thursday the P69-million supplemental budget which will entitle Capitol workers to an extra P40,000 cash gift on top of their regular P10,000 Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI).

Earlier, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the P36-million budget augmentation where the P10,000 PEI will be sourced. The additional budget was obtained from savings culled from unfilled plantilla positions in the Capitol.

Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. then submitted the supplemental budget to increase the PEI by P40,000.

In sum, the 2,200 capitol workers will receive P50,000 each for their PEI or popularly known as cash gift.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had advised the provincial government to wait for its review of the augmentation and supplemental budget before releasing the cash gift.

Alfonso Bedonia, DBM assistant regional director, said they need to review the additional allocation to find out if the Capitol did not exceed the budgetary cap on personal services (PS).

The personal services (PS) cap refers to the maximum salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit (LGU).

The Local Government Code provides that total appropriations, whether annual or supplemental, for personal services of an LGU for one fiscal year shall not exceed 45% in the case of 1st to 3rd class LGUs and 55% in the case of 4th class or lower class LGUs.

DBM’s Budget Circular 2009-5 issued this week provided the guidelines for the release of the PEI/cash gift to government employees.

Citing Administrative Order No. 276, the DBM circular said “government employees in the Executive Branch, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs), whether hired on permanent, temporary, casual, or contractual basis, are entitled to receive a one-time grant of a maximum of P10,000 each” as long as they have not received any additional year-end benefit in Fiscal Year 2009 over and above the benefit authorized under Republic Act 6686, as amended by RA 8441.

Bedonia said if the Capitol exceeded its PS cap due to the extra cash gift, they will disallow the allocation and require the recipients to refund the excess benefit.

Bedonia said LGUs must seek clearance from the Office of the President if they intend to hand out cash gifts in excess of what is stipulated in the DBM circular.

During their session yesterday, members of the provincial board also raised the concerns on the legal problems posed by the extra cash gift.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they decided to approve the P50,000 cash gift to give capitol employees a bright Christmas.

The P50,000 cash gift will be released Monday next week.

Tupas earlier said he will take the risk of any disallowance in handing out the extra cash gift.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) has reminded the Iloilo provincial government and more than 11,000 volunteer health workers (VHW) to refund the P23.2-million financial assistance given out December 2008.

In its Notice of Disallowance No. 09-011-100 (08) dated November 20, 2009, the audit agency said the financial assistance to VHWs has no legal basis as the provincial government was operating under a reenacted budget.

The office of Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. received a copy of the notice of disallowance November 23.

The provincial government reenacted the 2007 budget after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) ruled the 2008 annual budget as entirely inoperative.

The grants were given to the volunteer health workers December 2008 after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Supplemental Budget No. 1 per Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-08.

The DBM had also declared the grant to VHWs as inoperative since the provincial government was operating on a reenacted budget. Since there was no annual budget, the SP cannot pass a supplemental budget.

The CoA 2008 Annual Audit Report on the Iloilo provincial government also pointed out the same flaw in the release of the VHWs’ allowances.

The CoA provincial office also issued an audit observation memorandum regarding the financial assistance.

CoA also held Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., Vice Gov. Rolex T. Suplico, the Iloilo provincial board and other Capitol officials liable for releasing the allowances to the VHWs sans legal basis.

A total of 11,659 barangay service point officers, barangay nutrition scholars and barangay health workers received P2,000 each from the Capitol for their allowances.

Gov. Tupas has refused to refund the P23.2 million fund claiming it was released to VHWs in good faith.

Meanwhile, the P23.8-million financial assistance to VHWs for 2009 is still pending with the committee on appropriations of the provincial board.

Tupas had accused his nephew, Vice Gov. Suplico of deliberately delaying the approval of the P180-million Supplemental Budget No. 1 where the assistance is included.

But Suplico debunked his uncle’s claim as he is neither the chairman nor a member of the appropriations committee anymore.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

NO amount of upgrading will cure the discrepancies in the procurement of a laptop computer for the Iloilo Provincial Health Office, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

Mae L. Chua, chief budget and management specialist of DBM-6, said the provincial Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) should have declared a failure of bidding if the supplier cannot deliver the specified item.

Chua said the supplier must follow the specifications provided in the purchase request and purchase order.

Instead of an Acer Aspire laptop, lone bidder Seven Seven Trading delivered an upgraded Acer TravelMate laptop which was already phased out from the market.

The BAC has defended the deal in its explanation to the Commission on Audit (CoA). (See related story)

Chua said if the supplier failed to provide the required laptop, it is the responsibility of the BAC to declare a failure of bidding and look for other suppliers.

“Upon seeing that the supplier delivered a different item, the BAC should have not accepted it and declare a failure of bidding. The BAC then can initiate new bidding for the required item,” Chua said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo.

Capitol sources said the CoA has issued a notice of disallowance on the laptop deal. The notice will be forwarded to the CoA legal department which is deliberating the explanation made by the BAC.

Once the notice of disallowance is approved, BAC members and other capitol officials who signed the procurement papers will be made to refund the amount paid to the supplier.

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said he will have the transaction investigated to find out what happened.

Still, Tupas said the BAC, then headed by General Services Office chief Ramie Salcedo, followed procurement rules in buying the laptop.

Tupas earlier organized the BAC and designated Provincial Legal Officer Salvador Cabaluna III as chairman after the controversial purchases of the autoclave sterilizer and anesthesia machine were exposed.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the P1.18-billion annual budget of the Iloilo provincial government for 2009 except for three provisions.

 

In a March 20, 2009 letter to Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, DBM regional director Nilo Buot said Appropriations Ordinance 2008-05 enacted November 18, 2008 showed “substantial compliance” with the Local Government Code and other relevant laws.

 

The DBM reviewed the 2009 budget after it was submitted by the provincial government last December 23, 2008.

 

In sum, the DBM review upheld the decision of the opposition-dominated SP to slash discretionary funds and fuel allowances under the Office of the Governor and other departments.

 

But the DBM disallowed three provisions in the 2009 budget.

 

First, the agency did not allow the insertion of the new item of appropriation which set aside P55 million for the hazard pay of health workers.

 

The DBM also did not allow the increase in the lump sum for casuals amounting to P1.17million and the P848,409 appropriation for the creation of non-mandatory positions as these will exceed the 45% personnel services cap of the budget.

 

The review also said that Section 2 of AO 2008-05, which requires the promulgation of an enabling resolution in the hiring of casuals and job hires, “runs counter” to Sections 77 and 465 of the Local Government Code.

 

Buot said there is no need for an enabling resolution from the SP before the governor can hire casuals and job hires.

 

The DBM also set other conditions as regards the operative portions of the budget.

 

As regards Section 3 of the ordinance which mandates that aid to barangays shall be remitted to the city/municipalities in the province for distribution, it should “recognize the authority of the local chief executive” to execute the budget.

 

Provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III and provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they were vindicated by the DBM review after the agency stressed a Civil Service Commission memorandum saying that “duly appointed public officials and employees are entitled to salary upon valid appointment and assumption top duty.”

 

The provincial board did not include the names of Mejorada and Cabaluna in the plantilla as Vice Governor Rolex Suplico continues to question the validity of their appointments.

 

As regards the slashed budget items, Tupas said they will submit supplemental budgets to the SP to make up for their deficiency.

 

The DBM approval, however, would mean that 185 casual workers under the Office of the Governor will be unemployed starting today.

 

The budget for the casuals was among the items the SP deleted from the executive budget.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Governor Niel Tupas Sr. is using “strongman tactics” to impose his will on the annual budget of the provincial government by bending the law in his favor.

 

This is Vice Governor Rolex Suplico’s reaction to his uncle’s first executive order this New Year directing Capitol department heads to use the reenacted 2008 annual and supplemental budgets and 20% development fund instead of the P1.180-billion 2009 annual budget approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan November 18, 2008.

 

Suplico said Tupas’ order violated the Local Government Code (LGC) and budget rules issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to local government units.

 

Citing Section 323 of the LGC, the vice governor said Tupas cannot reenact the 2008 budget because the provincial board passed the 2009 budget before January 1, 2009.

 

“A reenacted budget will only take effect if no new budget was passed by January 1. In our case, we were able to enact a new budget, thus the move of the governor is illegal,” Suplico said.

 

Even if Tupas vetoed the 2009 annual budget December 2, 2008, Suplico said the new budget must be implemented after the veto was overridden by two-thirds of the SP membership last December 19, 2008.

 

Suplico said the mere filing of a declaratory relief with the Regional Trial Court against the 2009 budget cannot impede the implementation of the new appropriations ordinance.

 

“Unless the governor secures a temporary restraining or injunction order from the court or the DBM declares the entire 2009 budget as inoperative, he has the ministerial duty to implement the new appropriations ordinance intended for this year. Governor Tupas has no power to reenact the budget while a new appropriations measure is in effect. Even if the budget is under review by the DBM, the executive must implement it until told otherwise,” he added.

 

Suplico also questioned the reenactment of the 20% Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) development fund because the LGC and the DBM only allows the following appropriations to be reenacted: salaries and wages of personnel, contractual and statutory obligations such as loans and essential operation expenses such as water and electricity bills.

 

“The Local Government Code and the DBM prohibits the reenactment of the 20% IRA development fund. Governor Tupas has arrogated upon himself the power to appropriate public funds which is the work of the provincial board,” he said.

 

The vice governor likened his uncle’s move to Amendment No. 6 of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos which empowered the latter to issue laws, decrees and executive orders to the detriment of Congress.

 

“This is a Marcosian tactic. Governor Tupas might be the only governor in the whole world who wants to exercise the power to appropriate public funds. This executive order will imperil the hazard pay of health workers, the financial aid to barangays, and development projects in the province,” Suplico said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MEMBERS of the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) can still be held liable for the alleged substandard rifles purchased for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team even if the supplier has refunded the City government.

 

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said the fact that R. Espineli Trading decided to return more than P600,000 to the City Hall does not exonerate BAC members from any legal responsibility relative to the rifles deal.

 

City treasurer Katherine Tingson confirmed that Roberto Herbolario of R. Espineli has refunded the city P638,839.32 as indicated in Official Receipt No. 3132947 after the media exposed the five defective rifles the firm sold to City Hall.

 

Tingson said the rifles are still in their vault as only the General Services Office (GSO) headed by Agustin Sangrador can return the items to R. Espineli.

 

Bedonia said the BAC should have conducted a post qualification audit by test firing a sample of the rifles before the committee awarded the contract to R. Espineli.

 

The post qualification audit is done after the BAC has determined the lowest bidder and before the contract is awarded to the winner.

 

Bedonia said the post qualification audit is the most important phase of the bidding process as this will ascertain if the bidder followed the specifications set by the BAC as regards the items to be purchased.

 

The DBM official said a gun expert representing the BAC should be present in the test firing.

 

A representative from the end user, in this case the SWAT, should also be present in all BAC meetings to guide the committee on the details of the rifles, Bedonia added.

 

Bedonia said the GSO can also be held liable for accepting the alleged substandard rifles without any test firing.

 

The Sangguniang Panlungsod the other day passed a resolution requesting Sangrador and his two supply officers, City Administrator Melchor Tan, and the City Treasurer’s Office’s (CTO) in-charge of cash division where the rifles were kept in the vault for a closed door executive session at the vice-mayor conference room 9am of Dec. 16.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata, who authored the resolution, said they will be forced to relay the rifles issue to the Ombudsman if said officials don’t attend the meeting.

 

The City Council will conduct an investigation to know whether there were irregularities on the bidding process of the substandard rifles.

 

The alleged substandard rifles were exposed in the media after SWAT members complained before the City Council appropriations committee that the firearms’ target sight cannot be zeroed-in while the paint flaked when scratched.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. has vetoed the 2009 annual budget approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last month.

 

In his veto letter to the SP dated December 2, Tupas said he will “return Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-05 embodying the 2009 Annual Appropriation for the Province of Iloilo and Approving the Annual Investment Plan with a veto on the entire legislative measure.”

 

The governor said the provincial board approved the annual budget in haste which resulted in “confusion and chaos.”

 

“It is often said that haste makes waste. Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-05 is a perfect example. The ordinance was enacted, and submitted to this Office, with a swiftness that is enviable for a piece of legislation. It was submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on October 15, 2008. A little over a month later, on November 18, 2008, the appropriation ordinance was enacted. The following morning, it was already submitted to my Office,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas claimed the appropriation measure is defective for it failed to meet the requirements set by the Updated Budget Operations Manual (UBOM) for Local Government Units.

 

“The blunders committed are very fundamental. The Ordinance summarizes only lump sum amounts for each department/office, and does not specify how much is intended for personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlay,” Tupas said.

 

The governor said AO 2008-05 violated Item 6.2.2 of the UBOM for LGUs which provides that an appropriation ordinance “shall contain a provision summarizing the sources of revenues, other receipts and borrowings, if any, to finance the budget, and the magnitude of expenditures authorized by the Sanggunian, preferably by office/department, broken down by allotment class and categorized as either economic, social or general services.”

 

Implementing the annual budget, Tupas said, would be technically difficult, and legally infeasible.

 

“Aside from the rudimentary blunders aforementioned, the format is chaotic and confusing. Even the figures as presented are wrong. For instance, the estimated revenue from Professional Taxes is pegged at P365,000,000. The error is committed twice in the document. When you add up the numbers for revenue, you get a different sum,” he added.

 

The governor requested the committee on appropriations chaired by his nephew Vice Governor Rolex Suplico to re-examine the budget and make the necessary corrections before it is submitted back to his office for approval.

 

“Let me caution each and every member that an override of the veto will not rectify the blunders made,” Tupas said.

 

Suplico said he needs to read the veto letter to find out the specific defects pointed out by the governor.

 

“My office has not received any veto letter from the Office of the Governor. In short, media has the veto letter but not my office or the SP. This is the same thing that happened with respect to the DBM letter reviewing the 10% salary increase – media had a copy ahead of my office and the SP. We got our copy of the DBM letter from media,” Suplico said.

 

Suplico said the governor should prove why the 2009 budget is prejudicial to public interest and goes beyond the bounds of law.

 

The provincial board will tackle the veto letter when it convenes Friday. Aside from the veto, the board will also discuss possible measures to implement the 10% salary increase for capitol workers after the previous appropriations ordinance was declared inoperative by the Department of Budget and Management.

DBM nixes Capitol’s 10% salary increase

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Capitol employees are facing a bleak Christmas after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) thumbed down the appropriation ordinance allocating some P37 million for their 10 percent salary increase and other benefits.

 

In a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya declared Appropriations Ordinance 2008-02 as inoperative in its entirety.

 

Andaya based his decision on the fact that the Iloilo provincial government is operating on the 2007 reenacted budget after the DBM also declared as inoperative AOs 2008-01-a, which pertains to the 2008 annual budget,  and 2008-01-b involving the Internal Revenue Allocation development fund.

 

Citing the implementing rules and regulations of the Local Government Code, Andaya said no ordinance authorizing supplemental appropriations shall be passed in place of annual appropriations.

 

“Inasmuch as AO No. 2008-02 provides supplemental appropriations, it may not be allowed in the absence of the Fiscal Year 2008 annual budget of the province,” Andaya said.

 

But the provincial government can still implement the 10 percent increase embodied in Local Budget Circular No. 88, the DBM chief said.

 

How?

 

“In this case, the remedy of the province to provide for the 10 percent increase in salary and associated benefits of its officials and employees from July 1 to December 31, 2008 is to include the same in the new FY 2008 annual budget of the province that is in conformity with this Department’s review findings under letters dated June 18, 2008 and June 30, 2008, or through a supplemental budget after the enactment of the aforementioned annual budget,” Andaya said.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they will follow the suggestion of the DBM by submitting the 2008 executive budget, which will include appropriations for the 10 percent salary increase, to the SP.

 

“It is now up to the Sanggunian to act if ever the 2008 budget is submitted for their deliberation and approval. In the spirit of Christmas and New Year, we appeal to Vice Governor Rolex Suplico to cooperate and give what is due to the Capitol employees. If the vice governor remains adamant, maybe our board members can decide in favor of the welfare of our workers,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada said Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and provincial budget officer Elena Lim went to the DBM central office in Metro Manila to find ways to implement the increase.

 

He added that aside from the salary increase, the new 2008 proposed budget will include cash gifts for barangay service point officers, barangay health workers and other volunteer workers.       

 

Suplico declined to comment as he has not received an official copy of the DBM letter.

 

“I will first wait for the official copy to reach my office and study the points raised by Secretary Andaya which became the basis for his decision to declare the ordinance inoperative,” Suplico said.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE P55-million hazard pay for provincial health workers inserted by the committee on appropriations in the 2009 proposed budget might be disallowed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

 

DBM assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said they will have to disallow the hazard pay because the budgeting manual they issued to local governments prohibit the realignment of funds to new items that were not contained in the original proposal of the executive department.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, appropriations committee chair, earlier slashed more than P100 million from the proposed 2009 budget submitted by his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

Most of the slashed funds were budgets for the capital outlay and maintenance and other expenses of various capitol departments under the Office of the Governor.

 

Suplico said the failure of department heads to appear and defend their respective budgets before the budget hearings prompted him to decrease their appropriations.

 

The committee then set aside P55 million of the un-appropriated balance for the hazard pay and other benefits of public health workers in the province.

 

Suplico defended the hazard pay saying it is a statutory obligation of the provincial government because it is embodied in the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers.

 

The vice governor also cited a 2001 opinion signed by former DBM secretary Emilia Boncodin which allows the creation of new items in proposed budget “as long as it does not exceed the total proposed budget.”

 

But Bedonia said the opinion was already superseded by the budgeting manual the DBM issued in 2005.

 

“We will have to disallow that particular item once the budget is submitted to our office for review. The Sanggunian can only delete or decrease items in a budget but it cannot create new items,” Bedonia said.

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