COA’s report a slap to Cebu City, says opposition
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The opposition party here, the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kasuwagan, clapped at the administration for the result of the Audit Report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on Cebu City’s expenses in 2020.
Councilor Nestor Archival, the minority floor leader of the City Council, said that the discrepancies pointed out by the COA in the annual audit report is a slap to Cebu City’s financial management.
“Everybody here in the government, everybody here in Cebu City actually (know) that the city government is not doing what (it) is supposed to do. These are all, most of the items stated in the COA are very irregular, in every sense, illegal,” he said.
The COA pointed out more than 30 significant observations, of which seven are related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) expenses.
The COA pointed out that the city has given to 632 unqualified beneficiaries the Special Ammeloriation Program (SAP) funds amounting to P13.7 million; purchased from unqualified suppliers rice aid amounting to P67.3 million; issued a notice to proceed only after the construction of the Cebu City Quarantine Center (CCQC) began; purchased overpriced KN95 masks with an excess of P340,000; purchased test kits worth P42 million; not submitted list of donations, released a total of P1.5 million risk allowance to non-public health workers.
Archival said this was one of their concerns they have long raised in the council after the city spent over P3 billion for the COVID-19 response, which is why they asked for a breakdown of the procurements.
The COA audit report is a proof that their suspicions were right, that procurements during the pandemic were “anomalous.”
“Basically, wa pa gani na nireport ang COA, ang ako gyod gitan-aw ang atong gobyerno wa gyo’y direction. We should not be spending money that we are not earning. We are only earning P6 billion pero atong budget lapas na kaayo, mangayo pa silag laing P4.4 billion. Grabe kalabay og kwarta,” said Archival.
“Basically, even when the COA report didn’t come out, I already saw that our government had no direction. We should not be spending money that we are not earning. We are only earning P6 billion but our budget was way more, and they were asking for another P4.4 billion. It is a waste of money.)
The councilor said the administration should be held accountable for the expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic and the public deserves to know the truth.
Lawyer Virgil Ligutan, the legal counsel of BOPK, slammed the city administration for “fooling” the public over the unmodified opinion of COA over the city’s audit report.
As for City Administrator Floro Casas, Jr., he said they have already explained to the COA these noted discrepancies and they are working to resolve them.
First, he said the city does not hold any authority over the beneficiaries of the SAP as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and barangays are responsible for this. Demand letters have been sent out to unqualified beneficiaries as well.
As for the purchase of “overpriced” masks, purchase of rice aid, and purchase of testing machines, all of these procurements and projects were done with “a sense of urgency”.
“Ato nga time mahal kaayoa ang mask, nihit pa gyod, so nangita gyod tag paagi. Ang sa rice, di man sila kaingon nga unqualified suppliers kay tanan natong suppliers kumpleto man sa documents,” said Casas.
(At that time, masks were expensive and hard to find so we had to look for a way. With the rice, they can’t say the suppliers are unqualified because all of them had documents.)
As for failing to follow the process for the CCQC construction, Casas said the city wanted to hasten the project because of the rise in COVID-19 cases at that time.
On the release of risk allowance to non-public health workers, Casas said the city government provided an allowance to workers in the isolation facilities and all those working closely with COVID-19 patients even if they are not health workers.
Finally, the city will be complying with the recommendation to submit a list of all donations given during the pandemic.
Casas said the city government has been able to justify these discrepancies to the COA, and they believe the COA accepted their explanation because they issued an unmodified opinion.
“Mao bitaw nihatag silag unmodified opinion despite ani because naexplain namo’g tarong among side. Unta mao niy makita sa mga tawo,” he said.
(This is why they gave us an unmodified opinion because we were able to explain our side. We hope this is what people will see.)
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