COA flags Cebu City’s ‘excessive’ cash advances for foreign travel
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged several lapses in the cash advances of the Cebu City government for foreign travel to Canada in 2022 amounting to P1.992 million.
The state auditor is also set to issue a notice of disallowance.
COA, in its 2022 annual audit report, noted that the foreign travel to Canada of four city personnel, including Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, last August 2022, with a total cash advance of P1,992,000, “contravenes several provisions of Executive Order No. 77,” which resulted to irregular disbursement of public funds.
When a government transaction is disallowed, either due to “irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or illegal,” the public funds used for this transaction must be returned to the government by the people who approved of it.
The COA said that except for the City Mayor, the three other city personnel: the chief protocol, director of the Sister Cities Commission, and Secretary to the Mayor, lacked travel authority from the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“The payment of travel cash advances to these officials were not approved by the Secretary pursuant to the aforesaid regulation,” COA said.
Moreover, the state auditor also noted that the amount of the cash advances exceeded by at least P54,444 each, or a total of P217,776, which is equivalent to 2.5 days as Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA).
Rama and three other city personnel went to Canada on August 19 to 27, 2022, upon invitation from the Vancouver-Kensington Constituency Office.
The travel was for the historic enthronement of the image of Sto. Niño at the St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Agassiz, British Columbia.
The COA, however, noted that the authority of the travels for the three other personnel was only given by Mayor Rama, and without any authority from the Secretary of the DILG, in contrast with the EO 77.
COA also questioned the discrepancy between the cash advance granted for airfare and the airline’s flight price. The state auditor noted that the cash advance granted amounting to P300,000 each for airfare was not supported by the airline’s flight price.
“Based on our research, airline fares from Cebu to Vancouver, Canada were only at a range for one-way tickets from $450 to $500 or P25,128 to P27,920 in Philippine currency. Thus, the cash advance granted is considered excessive,” COA said.
The state auditor also flagged the purpose of the travel of the three personnel who went with the mayor in Canada, as the purpose of the travel of these three employees, as per the travel order signed by Mayor Rama, was to accomplish the same purpose.
The state auditor emphasized that in case of trips involving delegations, the authorized approving authority should ensure that the number of participants is kept at the “barest minimum and the role of each member in the delegation is clearly specified and justified in the travel application or proposal.”
COA said that it recommended and the city government agreed to follow all the provisions of EO 77 for future similar travels to avoid disallowance in the audit. /rcg
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