Return P41M in PDAF funds

By Jessa Mae O. Sotto July 12,2018

ORTEGA

COA TO PROVINCE

Government auditors have asked the Cebu provincial government to return to the national treasury P41.7 million in unutilized allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) released since 2006.

According to its audit report, failure to return the money “deprives the national government of much needed funds to finance its other priority projects.”

In their 2017 report, auditors said that the non-reversion of the PDAF also runs contrary to a November 2013 Supreme Court decision declaring the PDAF as unconstitutional.

“Further, some PDAF were still disbursed by the province of Cebu (even) after the promulgation of the said Supreme Court decision amounting to P48,548,542.33 contrary to the said decision,” the COA report stated. A copy of the report was sent to the Capitol on June 28, 2018.

Provincial Legal Officer Lawyer Orvi Ortega said he sees nothing wrong with spending the money as it was already included in the funds of the province.

“With respect sa katong PDAF nga long time ago nasulod na sa panudlanan sa (was already deposited in the fund of the) province of Cebu, before it was hand down sa decision,” he said, citing the Supreme Court rulings declaring PDAF as unconstitutional last Nov. 2013.

“Our position is, na sulod naman gud na, dili naman na SARO (Special Allotment Release Order). It is money inside the coffers of the provincial government. There is already a trust fund for that,” he added.

COA issued Memorandum No. 2013-008 on December 6, 2013 to remind local government units and government auditors of the need to implement the SC decision.

The memorandum said that “disbursements from PDAF are within the primary fiscal responsibility of the agencies and in line with COA’s post-audit policy.”

Its disbursement is not subject to any pre-audit or pre-clearance by the Commission, the report said.

After an audit of the Capitol’s financial standing in 2013, COA reported an outstanding balance of P89.9 million from the Capitol’s PDAF share.

This balance was what remained of several PDAF releases made from 2006 to 2013, mostly coming from the congressional allocation of Cebuano legislators.

As of December 31, 2017, the amount is now only P41.7 million. Auditors said that PDAF utilization continued from 2014 to 2017.

Now 3rd District Representative, Gwendolyn Garcia was Cebu governor from 2004 to 2013. Incumbent Governor Hilario Davide III took over Capitol’s reins in 2013.

The Provincial Legal Officer told COA that “the subject PDAF funds can only be used, released and/or disbursed upon the sound discretion of the Provincial Governor, not the legislators who allocated the PDAF, provided that the use and disbursement are in accordance with the purpose for which PDAF funds were allocated.”

“If the said PDAF funds did not carry a specific purpose, then it may be assumed that the said PDAF funds can be used for other legal public purposes. After all, what is declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court is the practice where in a legislator intervenes, assumes or participates in any of the post-enactment stages of the budget execution.” Ortega said.

But auditors insisted on the need to return the unused PDAF to the national government.

“We also recommend that management hasten the filing of its Motion for Clarification before the Supreme Court to avoid eventual disallowance of the disbursement in question,” the audit report said.

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