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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) will order the Provincial Treasurer and Accounting Offices to start collecting the disallowed 14th month pay handed out to Iloilo capitol employees in 2002.

The audit agency will send a letter to the accounting office today (December 21, 2009) directing the office to take up in the Capitol’s books of accounts as “receivables from employees” the 14th month pay.

Accountants of all district hospitals will also be included in the CoA directive.

The CoA letter will require accountants to start recording in their books all refunds of the 14th month pay in 2002 which the CoA disallowed.

The audit agency said in its 2002 annual audit report that there was an anomaly in the release of the 14th month pay, amounting to P21,001,364 to Capitol employees and officials last December 2002.

According to COA, the province exceeded the 45% Personnel Services (PS) limitation provided by the Local Government Code (LGC). PS refers to the component of the annual budget for the salaries and benefits of employees of a local government unit.

The provincial government then filed before the Supreme Court a petition for review against CoA’s findings.

But the SC backed CoA’s findings and ordered the provincial government to refund the 14th month pay it released to the capitol employees.

CoA will also ask the Iloilo provincial treasurer to comply with the Notice of Final Disallowance and Final Order of Adjudication issued earlier by the audit body after the SC’s en banc decision became final and executory.

The Final Order of Adjudication instructed the treasurer to withhold payment of salaries or any money due to capitol employees if they fail to refund the 14th month pay.

The CoA said any payment of salaries or any money due them (capitol employees) in violation of the final order of adjudication “will be disallowed in audit and you (provincial treasurer) will be held liable therefore.”

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. said he is willing to face charges that may result from his plan to give P50,000 in cash gift to each of the more than 2,000 Capitol employees.

The cash gift, which will total P105 million, is embodied in two budget requests the governor asked from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Tupas requested for an augmentation in the 2009 budget amounting to P36 million and a supplemental budget totaling P69 million.

Instead of the usual P15,000 cash gift to each capitol employee, Tupas is planning to hand out P50,000 to each worker “to help them in these trying times”.

The governor said he will face any notice of disallowance or charges that may arise should they overshoot the personal services cap in the 2009 budget.

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.

“If they disallow it, we will face it. We will not let the workers suffer,” he said over RMN-Iloilo.

The augmentation and supplemental budget requests are now pending with the SP’s committee on appropriations.

The SP is also deliberating the P23.8-million financial assistance to volunteer health workers for 2009.

Earlier, the Commission on Audit (CoA) had directed the provincial government to refund the P71-million extra cash gift given to Capitol employees in December 2008.

The audit agency said the extra cash gift exceeded the Personal Services cap or limit of the capitol budget amounting to P118.5 million.

The CoA said the allowable PS level of the capitol is P380.1 million. But Capitol disbursement for PS in 2008 including the extra cash gift amounted to P546.4 million.

The next PS cost incurred in 2008 totaled P427.6 million, which is already P47.48 million over the PS cap, the CoA report said.

The provincial government disputed the CoA’s findings saying their own computation showed that they only exceeded 8% of the PS cap amounting to P8 million.

Another anomaly rocks Iloilo Capitol

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ANOTHER transaction in the Iloilo provincial government was stalled due to anomalies in the bidding process.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) in a letter dated October 20, 2009 returned the disbursement papers for payment of various equipment supplied to the Iloilo Provincial Hospital (IPH) in Pototan, Iloilo as the bidding was purportedly manipulated.

The letter was sent to the office of Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. and Provincial Accountant Lyd P. Tupas.

Disbursement Voucher No. 300-09-10-950 dated October 6, 2009 covers the payment for computer equipment to the IPH amounting to more or less P250,000.

According to the audit agency, the equipment were already delivered on November 3, 2008 even before the public bidding was conducted on November 26, 2008. The participating bidders were Cyber Link Compu Sales and Strides PEF Enterprises.

The delivery before the bidding was supported by Delivery Receipt (DR) No. 5459 dated November 3, 2008. The CoA’s audit team also confirmed that the items were already delivered during a visit at the IPH on January 19, 2009.

The purchase was covered by the Purchase Order No. IPH-178 dated December 15, 2008 and was received by the supplier on January 19, 2009. The delivery term is 15 calendar days after received of the approved PO.

But upon verification of the disbursement voucher and other supporting papers, the audit agency found out that another DR No. 5481 dated February 4, 2009 was prepared to replace DR No. 5459 dated November 3, 2008.

“Fourteen (14) of the items stated in the two DRs are exactly the same as to specifications and serial numbers. It can be presumed that the issuance of a new DR was resorted to by the persons liable to show that proper bidding procedures were followed. Since there is already a winner prior to the actual conduct of bidding, then credence could not be given to the public bidding conducted,” the CoA said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) Iloilo office has issued a Notice of Finality of Decision (NFD) relative to the disallowed purchase of a laptop computer by the Iloilo provincial government in 2007.

The NFD, which was issued early this week, is a follow up to the Notice of Disallowance No. 2008-003-300 (08) dated December 2, 2008 which nixed the acquisition of an Acer laptop computer for the Provincial Health Office (PHO).

State Auditor 4 Haydee Pasuelo of CoA provincial office, said they did not accept the justification of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) on why the laptop computer delivered by the lone supplier was different from the item described in Purchase Order No. B-1273.

The laptop transaction was included in the 2008 Annual Audit Report on the provincial government which outlined why the deal was attended with irregularities.

According to the CoA report, the PHO requested an Acer Aspire laptop computer (model 5920G-302G16N) costing P99,000.

But the lone bidder, Seven Seven Trading, delivered another brand of lesser specification, an Acer Travelmate 6292-101616MI which only costs P59,900.

But the BAC’s inspection team accepted the delivered laptop even if it deviated from what was originally ordered.

CoA also found out that Seven Seven Trading carries only supplies such as computer ink, not a computer distributor.

The supplier is actually a middleman for a computer supplier, the audit agency found out.

The audit body said the transaction “is considered an irregular expenditure since it is in violation of a government policy to acquire the same directly from reputable manufacturers or their duly licensed distributors.

CoA also rapped the BAC for its “failure to exert efforts to attract competitive bidders, especially the duly registered computer stores in the city, to avail of price advantageous to the government.”

The provincial government, through the General Services Office (GSO), justified the deal saying that the delivered unit was upgraded from 1526 MB DDR2RAM to 2 GB DDR2RAM.

“The upgraded unit has higher specifications compared to the one that was bidded out which Acer Aspire 5290 G-302 G16N.  As to its durability, Acer Aspire model is usually used indoor while Acer Travelmate is used for outdoors and could withstand traveling thus considered more durable than the former,” the GSO said.

But the CoA provincial office did not accept the GSO’s justification and recommended the return of the delivered unit and the conduct of a new bidding on the item.

The Iloilo provincial government can still appeal the Notice of Finality of Decision with the CoA regional office.

CoA held Gov. Niel Tupas Sr., the BAC and other officials who released the funds for the laptop computer liable for the controversial deal.

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

THE Commission on Audit (COA) wants the Iloilo City government to review its financial aid to all 180 barangays in the metropolis.

This after the COA observed that the P18.345-million financial assistance granted to barangay officials from 2006-2008 have no legal basis.

Based on the COA annual audit report on Iloilo City’s finances, each of the 180 barangay captains received P4,000 and P3,000 each for other barangay officials from City Hall.

The audit body also noted that the barangays receiving the assistance from City Hall exceeded the personal services limitation provided by Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code and Department of Budget and Management circulars.

RA 7160 stipulates that allocations for personal services (salaries and benefits of public officials) must not exceed 45% of the total annual income of first to third class local government units (LGUs).

LGUs classified as fourth or lower class have a PS ceiling of 55% of the total annual income from regular sources.

Thus COA issued an audit observation memorandum requiring the City Government to explain the legal basis of the grant to barangay officials.

The City Legal and Treasurer Offices cited provisions of RA 7160 allowing provincial, city and municipal governments to provide at least P1,000 financial aid to barangays.

The City Hall also said that only the general fund is subject to PS limitations and the barangays did not allocate the assistance in their respective budgets.

The assistance was also given directly to barangays, not barangay officials, City Hall officials said.

But the COA said the City Government should observe the PS limitations set by the law. The audit body also advised that the barangays should enter the assistance in their books as income and allocate the money through appropriation ordinances.

The COA also noted that newly-elected officials enjoyed the assistance in December 2007 a month after they assumed office.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (COA) stopped three fund releases of the executive department of the Iloilo provincial government for lack of approval by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and other requirements.

These releases involved financial aids to a group of non-government organizations (NGOs) and two multipurpose cooperatives in Iloilo.

The audit body was able to sift out the questionable releases because of the pre-auditing procedure conducted on all provincial capitol transactions.

In a letter to Governor Niel Tupas Sr., Haydee O. Pasuelo, COA state auditor 4 based in Iloilo, returned Disbursement Voucher No. 100-09-09-12615 dated August 15, 2009 for the release of P500,000 to the Iloilo Coalition of Non-Government Organizations and Peoples’ Organizations (ICON).

Pasuelo said in her September 16, 2009 letter that the disbursement papers released by the Office of the Governor bore the following violations and deficiencies:

–         lack of proof that the project to be implemented by the NGO/PO is made public via newspapers, agency websites, bulletin boards and the like, at least three months prior to the target date of commencement of the identified projects;

–         non-submission of accreditation of the NGO/PO as project partners by the GO through the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), or a committee created for the purpose;

–         non-submission of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA);

–         Lack of proof that the NGO/PO have complied with the equity requirement equivalent to 20% of the total project cost, which may be in the form of labor, land for project site, facilities, equipment and the like, to be used in the project.

Despite the COA advice, the Office of the Governor tried to release a total of P600,000 to two multipurpose cooperatives based in the towns of Banate and San Enrique, Iloilo.

A total of P400,000 loan was to be released to the De La Paz Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Brgy. De La Paz, Banate.

The governor also tried to release another P200,000 loan to the District of San Enrique Public School Teachers and Non-Teachers Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

But Pasuelo said the financial aids were defective as these were not concurred by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as prescribed by Section 36 of the Local Government Code.

NGOs/POs that seek funding assistance from local governments must first submit several documents as embodied in COA Circular No. 2007-001 before they can receive money from the capitol.

Some of these requisite documents include certificates of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cooperative Development Authority and Department of Labor and Employment; authenticated copy of the latest Articles of Incorporation or articles of cooperation; financial report audited by and independent certified public accountant.

In a letter dated October 7, 2009, Tupas sought authority from the SP to enter into loan contracts with seven cooperatives that want to borrow a total of P1.5 million.

Among the seven cooperatives were the cooperatives in Banate and San Enrique whose disbursement vouchers were nixed by COA.

Tupas’ letter was included in the agenda of SP’s regular session Tuesday and has been referred to the committee on appropriations.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said they will strictly scrutinize the standing of the cooperatives.

Suplico said they will determine if the cooperatives satisfied the documentary requirements set by COA.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) wants five electric cooperatives in Panay to refund part of excess subsidy fund from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) amounting to P20 million.

In the 2008 CoA annual audit report on NEA finances, the audit agency found that Iloilo Electric Cooperatives (Ileco) 1, 2 and 3, Capiz Electric Cooperative (Capelco) and Aklan Electric Cooperative (Akelco) have yet to return their excess subsidy from NEA.

The CoA report showed that Ileco 1 has P1.354 million in excess subsidy, Ileco 2 – P132,208 and Ileco 3 – P504,883, Capelco – P4.143 million, and Akelco – P124,999.

The excess subsidy of the five cooperatives is just part of the almost P20 million surplus subsidy from NEA.

The other electric cooperatives who have yet to return their excess subsidy are Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative – P11.79 million, Maguindanao Electric Cooperative – P1.005 million and South Cotabato Electric Cooperative – P935,901.

The subsidy to the electric cooperatives is part of NEA’s mandate to implement the rural electrification program on an “area-coverage” basis.

The national government provides NEA with subsidy funds which are given to ECs for the electrification of depressed, low income, remote or isolated barangays, puroks or localities.

The fund will also finance the rehabilitation of distribution lines and systems damaged by calamities.

The ECs are required to return the unused subsidy funds or request to use savings or balance and interest that accrued to the fund in activities related to the electrification project.

CoA recommended in its audit report that NEA must require the said electric cooperatives (EC) to return the excess subsidy fund.

The audit body also recommended that future agreements between NEA and the ECs must provide timeline for the cooperatives to request realignment of excess subsidy funds after which the excess amount should be refunded. 

NEA has sent letters to the concerned ECs requiring them to submit board resolutions for realignment of the excess funds to other related projects or return the excess money.

So far, Ileco 1 and 2 have submitted their respective board resolutions on their request for realignments and are awaiting approval by NEA.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government will not refund the P23.2-million financial assistance to 11,659 volunteer health workers last year.

In an interview with weekly cable TV show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta last Sunday, Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said they are banking on a Supreme Court decision on a case similar to that of the volunteer health workers in the province.

Citing the SC decision, Mejorada said the health workers will not be compelled to refund the assistance “because it was given to them on good faith.”

“The provincial government acted on good faith in giving the assistance. Governor Niel Tupas Sr. did not pocket the money unlike what other people want to imply,” Mejorada said.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) directed the provincial government to refund the P23.2 million financial aid for lack of legal basis.

The CoA said in its 2008 annual audit report that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) declared as inoperative the appropriation ordinance for the said grant.

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

But the DBM declared the grant inoperative as the provincial government was operating on a reenacted budget. Since there was no annual budget, the SP cannot pass a supplemental budget.

Meanwhile, the CoA also directed the provincial government to refund the P71-million extra cash gift given to Capitol employees December 2008.

The audit agency said the extra cash gift exceeded the Personal Services cap or limit of the capitol budget amounting to P118.5 million.

The Local Government Code of 1991 provides that personal services or salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit should not exceed 45% of its annual budget.

The CoA said the allowable PS level of the capitol is P380.1 million. But Capitol disbursement for PS in 2008 including the extra cash gift amounted to P546.4 million.

The next PS cost incurred in 2008 totaled P427.6 million, which is already P47.48 million over the PS cap, the CoA report said.

Mejorada said their own computation showed that they only exceeded 8% of the cap amounting to P8 million.

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

THERE was nothing irregular in the purchase of a laptop computer for the Iloilo Provincial Health Office (PHO) even if the lone bidder delivered a unit different from what was requested by the said office.

Provincial Legal Officer Salvador Cabaluna III, who also heads the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), also finds nothing wrong if the lone bidder acted as a middleman of a laptop supplier.

In defending the deal, Cabaluna cited the explanation submitted by General Services Office head Ramie Salcedo, former BAC chair, to the Commission on Audit (CoA) which questioned the laptop deal.

The purchase request prepared by the PHO in December 2007 specifically requested for an Acer Aspire 5920G-302G16N worth P99,000.

But the lone bidder, Seven Seven Trading delivered an Acer TravelMate 6292-101616MI worth P59,900 on February 2008.

Acer TravelMate has lower specifications and capability compared to the newer Acer Aspire in terms of memory capacity and processor speed.

But Cabaluna said the TravelMate’s memory capacity was upgraded from 1526 megabytes (MB) to 2 gigabytes (GB).

“The upgraded unit has higher specification compared to the one that was bidded out which is Acer Aspire 5920G-302G16N. As to its durability, Acer Aspire model is usually used indoor while Acer TavelMate is used for outdoors and could withstand traveling thus considered more durable than the former,” Salcedo said in the BAC explanation to CoA.

Cabaluna said he also learned that Acer Aspire was already “phased out” from the market, the reason why they settled for an upgraded Acer TravelMate.

But according to the Acer website and computer experts reached by The Daily Guardian, Acer Aspire is the latest laptop model of the company.  And the Acer TravelMate was the one phased out from the market a year ago, experts said.

The BAC said time element was also a factor in the pricing of the two laptop computers. During the bidding process, the Acer TravelMate cost P99,000 but its price plunged down because of the rapid turnout of newer units.

The BAC said the CoA audited the transaction 10 months after the purchase was made. By that time, the price of the Acer TravelMate supplied by Seven Seven Trading already went down to 59,900.

Salcedo also refuted the CoA findings that Seven Seven Trading was a middleman, not a supplier of computers and computer supplies.

The BAC said Cristina Te, Seven Seven trading assistant manager, presented a BIR certification to prove that they supply computers.

But CoA visited Seven Seven Trading on JM Basa Street, Iloilo City and found out that it only sells school supplies and computer inks.

The audit body also said the certification from Electroworld, Inc., a computer supplier, proves that Seven Seven Trading is dependent on the latter firm for laptop units.

CoA recommended to the BAC to stop accepting offers from middlemen and to ensure that suppliers are qualified and capable to deliver the required item or service.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HERE’S why deals in the Iloilo provincial government should be closely scrutinized.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) 2008 annual audit report recommended to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to ensure that Capitol suppliers are “well-scrutinized, eligible, competitive and capable to deliver.”

The audit body based its recommendation on the circumstances surrounding the purchase of a laptop computer requested by the Provincial Health Office (PHO) in December 2007.

The PHO requested an Acer Aspire 5920G laptop computer with a memory size of 2,048 megabytes (MB) and processor type Intel Core 2 Duo T7300.

An Acer Aspire unit costs P99,000, according to the purchase order. But the laptop unit delivered by lone bidder Seven Seven Trading was an Acer TravelMate 6292. This unit has a memory size of 1,556MB while its processor is Intel Core 2 Duo T7100.

The Acer TravelMate laptop only costs P59,900, the audit agency said.

Despite the disparity between the purchase order and the unit delivered by Seven Seven Trading last February 2008, the Capitol inspection team accepted the laptop.

The audit body also found out that Acer TravelMate was already phased out from the market.

It was also found out that Seven Seven Trading, which is located on JM Basa Street, Iloilo City, is actually a middleman of another computer supplier Electroworld, Inc.

The CoA report said a certification issued by Electroworld to Ramie Salcedo, BAC chair and General Services Office head, proved that Seven Seven Trading does not sell Acer Aspire laptops.

“The certification issued by Electroworld Inc. to Mr. Ramie Salcedo proved that the item in the PO does not exist in the shelves of the Seven Seven Trading and dependent only in the stocks of Electroworld, Inc., the source of the said laptop unit,” the CoA audit report said.

CoA also questioned the eligibility of Seven Seven Trading saying no computers were displayed in the store but only sells school supplies and compute inks.

Salcedo defended the deal saying the two laptops have the same function.

The Acer TravelMate became cheaper compared to Acer Aspire because of technological advancements, Salcedo said.

Currently the media is taking a vigilant look on the bidding process for the purchase of P33-million worth of equipment for various district hospitals in the province of Iloilo.

Reports say the process is being influenced by people at the governor’s office who are asking huge commissions from “favored” suppliers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Commission on Audit (COA) has disallowed the transaction on the P1.1-million autoclave sterilizer purchased by the Iloilo provincial government for the Passi City district hospital.  

 

In a notice of disallowance issued November 11, 2008, state auditor 4 Haydee P. Pasuelo said they found discrepancies in the deal.

 

“Ocular inspection conducted by the COA-Technical Services Office on August 21, 2008 disclosed that the unit is not in accordance with the duly approved Purchase Order, has no nameplate indicating the name of the manufacturer, origin of the unit, brand name/model and power consumption, and brochure submitted does not indicate the product patent number. It was also found out to be defective; thus the actual test was not performed at the time of the inspection,” the notice said.

 

Pacific Trade House won the contract for the autoclave sterilizer which conked out when personnel of the Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital operated the machine.

 

The audit body also found “existence of fraud” in the procurement process based on the disbursement voucher and other supporting papers.

 

“The bidding participated in by Pacific Trade House and CDC Pharmacy showed that there was collusion between the two bidders. The disbursement voucher revealed that the person who received the check for payment in favor of Pacific Trade House was the authorized representative of CDC Pharmacy in the name of Ma. Cherry D. Alaban. It was also noted that the delivery receipt, signed by the Nurse-in-Charge supposedly issued by Pacific Trade House, bears the Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TIN) of a Dione Trading. Further investigation revealed that this Dione Trading (which delivered the autoclave sterilizer) and CDC Pharmacy are owned by only one person,” COA said.

 

COA said the discrepancies violated procurement and accounting rules.

 

Who are liable for the controversial transaction?

 

COA said the persons legally responsible for the deal are general services office chief and bids and awards committee (BAC) chair Ramie Salcedo, budget officer and BAC vice chair Elena Lim, provincial engineer Gracianito Lucero, former provincial treasurer Melba Sullivan, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, and executive assistant Levy Buenavista.       

 

Also held liable were Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the transaction and Mercedes Sibug as supplier.

 

In his privilege speech delivered during the provincial board’s regular session Tuesday, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the persons tagged by COA to the questioned deal are “the ‘usual suspects’ in zarzuelas with these particular plots involving scams and scandals.”

 

“These ‘usual suspects’ may have already attained the status of ‘stars’ or even ‘superstars’ in their own right,” Suplico added.

 

Suplico urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan “to condemn the sterilizer scam in the strongest possible terms; to refer the matter to the appropriate committee for investigation; and to do any act necessary to stop graft and corruption in the Iloilo provincial government.”       

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

AFTER the hospitals equipment scam, the Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan is set to investigate the purchase of plants for the landscaping of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center façade in Pototan, Iloilo after the Commission on Audit (COA) found alleged irregularities in the transaction.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said they will base their investigation on the COA Audit Observation Memorandum dated November 4, 2008.

 

The memorandum signed by Haydee Pasuelo, COA audit team leader, and Maria Glenda Lim, COA regional cluster director, covers the purchase of landscaping plants worth P144,750.

 

The purchase was requested by the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) headed by Ildefonso Toledo while the supplier was Cleafar Enterprises.

 

The COA memorandum found out that the purchase order (PO) for the landscaping plants was “paid in full despite the incomplete delivery in the amount of P127,950.”

 

COA inspection of the deliveries of the plants conducted October 27, 2008 and November 4, 2008 showed there was partial delivery amounting to P16,800 only.

 

But per acceptance and inspection report (AIR) from the PAO, there was complete delivery February 14, 2008.

 

The COA said Toledo confirmed there was indeed incomplete delivery because the IRC area to be planted with the 150 square feet of Bermuda grass, 200 sq ft of Carabao grass and other ornamental plants was not yet ready.

 

“The area has yet to be filled with garden soil. All other plants included in the PO were also not delivered. It appears that there was an advance payment to the supplier in the amount of P127,950,” COA observed.

 

Section 88 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines strictly prohibits advance payments on government deals unless the goods and/or services were fully delivered by the supplier.

 

While the transaction happened in 2008, the budget was taken from the reenacted 2007 budget of the PAO for agricultural products worth P1.5 million.

 

The COA also found out in the bidding documents that owner of the winning supplier, Cleafar Enterprises, is a certain Ma. Cecilia Buenconsejo with business address at Brgy. Inagdangan Norte, Zarraga, Iloilo.

 

But in the delivery paper and receipt of payment, charge invoice and official receipt, the proprietor of Cleafar was identified as Jose Benjamin Pama with office address at Commission Civil Street, Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

Suplico said the discrepancies in the proprietorship and business address of the winning bidder “smells fishy.”

 

“Why is it that the owner and business address of the supplier in the bidding documents were different from the delivery and acceptance papers? We must find out what happened. And where are the rest of the undelivered items?” Suplico said.

 

The vice governor, who is at odds with his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr., also questioned the proposed landscaping of the IRC.

 

“What we need at the IRC are barbed wires, not ferns, grasses and ornamental plants. It would have been better if they bought vegetable seedlings for the inmates to plant and eat,” he added.

 

COA has issued a notice of disallowance on the landscaping plants transactions because of the incomplete delivery.

 

Among those cited as liable are General Services Office chief Ramie Salcedo and Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada for certifying that the delivery was complete; PAO chief Toledo for certifying that the items delivered conformed to the specifications and quantity stated in the purchase order; Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the deal; Buenconsejo as payee; and Danny Baldemor and Rosario Catalan.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo provincial government continues to deny receiving part of the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund even as the House and Senate grill its purported brains, former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said yesterday the provincial government refused a “very lucrative kickback” offer of 40 percent from a woman supplier.

 

Mejorada said the woman was trying to get the Capitol to submit a P10-million request for fertilizers sometime in March 2007 “but we steered clear of the fertilizer fund scam.”

 

“The moment the supplier told us that there was a 40 percent kickback in the transaction, we immediately said ‘no’ and asked her to leave,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada said the woman supplier, whose name he could no longer remember, had approached him with the necessary procurement documents already prepared and just awaiting the signature of Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

“She told me she could obtain the funding for the province through the Department of Agriculture, and all that we needed to do was to get Governor Tupas to sign the request for fertilizers,” he said.

 

However, Mejorada became suspicious about the liquid fertilizer that she was offering in the transaction and the “outrageous” offer of a 40-percent kickback. He quickly turned down the offer.

 

Mejorada said he informed Tupas about the anomalous offer. “The governor told me that I had done the right thing,” he said.

 

A few days later, the supplier went directly to see Tupas with the same offer, but the governor told her “to bring it elsewhere”.

 

Based on Commission on Audit reports, three congressional districts – 1st district, 2nd district and 3rd district – received allocations of P5 million each.

 

Bolante has again absolved President Arroyo in the fertilizer fund scam.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (COA) gave its nod to the land swap deal between the Iloilo City government and property developer Megaworld Corp. relative to the construction of the New City Hall.

Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, head of a City Hall task force negotiating with Megaworld, said COA found no legal impediments to the land swap deal which will pave the way for the construction of the new City Hall.

Megaworld has offered part of the old airport lot in Mandurriao district as the future site of the new government center. The firm also broached the idea of constructing the building using the P350-million loan City Hall has obtained from the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Mayor Jerry Treñas then tasked Mabilog to negotiate with Megaworld and study the legality of the firm’s offer.

Mabilog said the land swap deal must be advantageous to the City government in terms of the area and value.

“The property that Megaworld is offering must either be equal to or more than what the City government is willing to swap. And the land swap deal must first be approved by COA before it can be consummated,” Mabilog said.

The vice mayor said the city government needs more or less 8,000 square meters on which to build the new City Hall.

The city government is planning to swap the old city hall site across Plaza Libertad with a parcel of Megaworld’s property in Mandurriao.

Mabilog said they have asked the help of the City Assessor’s Office to evaluate the pieces of properties which will be swapped between the City Hall and Megaworld.

“Once the COA has approved the land swap deal, the Sangguniang Panlungsod will authorize the mayor to close the deal with Megaworld,” he added.

As regards Megaworld’s offer to construct the new City Hall, Mabilog said COA stressed the need of a competitive bidding among interested contractors based on procurement laws.

“The construction will not be exclusive to Megaworld. It must bid with other contractors if it wants to handle the project. The P350-million loan will still be used to put up the building. The winning contractor will be paid phase by phase depending on their progress and compliance with the program of works,” the vice mayor said.

The New City Hall has been delayed due to budgetary concerns triggered by escalating prices of construction materials which jacked up budget estimates by 22 percent to P463-million from the initial P379-million.

Mabilog said Megaworld is willing to handle the project using the P350-million DBP loan “without sacrificing the integrity and stability of the new building.”

“Megaworld has a good track record in terms of constructing office buildings. They are willing to undertake the project using the available funds,” Mabilog added.

Mabilog said they have been carefully studying Megaworld’s offer to avoid legal problems.

“Bacolod City did finish its new government center earlier than Iloilo City. But Bacolod City officials are also facing cases before the Ombudsman and we don’t want that to happen here.”

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