Rama is out of the loop on city’s financial state

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita May 24,2016 - 10:56 PM

CEBU City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas yesterday admitted that suspended Mayor Michael Rama knew nothing about the financial status of Cebu City.

She also admitted that she did not even give Rama the city’s cash position.

“It’s okay nga gipasa ni mayor (Rama) nako kay ako may mas nakahibawo (that he passed it to me because I’m more knowledgeable). He (Rama) just signs the vouchers. I don’t even give him the city’s cash position every time since for me, he’s not very involved in that anymore,” Cuevas said.

She said this was Rama’s way of “empowering” his department heads when it came to managing City Hall.

Rama had earlier declared that Cuevas has his “full trust and confidence.”

Acting Cebu City Mayor Margot Osmeña, in a press conference yesterday, said she had expected that Rama would never be able to explain the financial status of the city.

“I told Diwa many times already. Diwa, watch what you’re doing. You should know what you’re doing,” said Osmeña in a press conference yesterday.

“One day you’re gonna find yourself answering all these questions alone. Well, she’s finding herself there now,” she added.

But Cuevas said she did no’t mind placed in such position.

She said it’s okay that Rama is passing the buck to her, adding that in the first place she is the one who is more knowledgeable about how the city’s finances work.

TIME DEPOSIT

Among the concerns raised by the acting mayor as well as the transition committees working on the turnover of City Hall to incoming Mayor Tomas Osmeña, was the putting of around P48 million of the city’s shares from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) in a time deposit account.

Cuevas explained that this practice has been done since the time of former city treasurer Ofelia Oliva, even before Cuevas’s stint as city treasurer.

Cuevas was appointed city treasurer in 2013.

“I even asked Emma Villarete, the one supervising our office now, and she explained that it has been done a long time already and it was just continued,” she said.

Before Cuevas’s appointment, Villarete and Tessie Camarillo were OIC city treasurers.

Cuevas said the only funds she placed in a time deposit account were the P4.3 billion from the proceeds of the sale of two South Road Properties (SRP) lots last year. Cuevas said this was because there’s still no approved appropriations for the use of the amount.

“So in the meantime, I placed it in a time deposit account so at least it could earn some interest,” she said.

This is also the reason why the Pagcor funds were placed in time deposit, although Cuevas said it was on a month to month basis. If the city needed the funds, then it would be available in 30 days on its maturity.

She explained that the Pagcor funds are not always fully utilized because the process for releasing the fund is long. The city receives around P4 million a month as Pagcor funds.

”There is a COA-AOM (Commission on Audit – Audit Observation Memorandum) during the time of Oliva that if the cash is free (from any obligations), it can be placed in time deposit,” Cuevas said.

The rest of the proceeds of the SRP sale, amounting to around P4.5 billion, was made part of the city’s general fund since it was identified as one of the fund sources for the city’s annual budget this year.

AUDIT

Osmeña earlier asked the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) to conduct a cash audit of the city’s current finances as part of the transition to the new administration.

Although the agencies have already completed their separate audits, Osmeña said they are yet to provide her office with a copy of their findings and their report.

Based on records of the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO), P48 million is in a time deposit with BDO while another P42 million is with Land Bank of the Philippines.

Cuevas said she even asked the COA to verify with the banks if the Pagcor funds on time deposit were really used to guarantee back to back transactions for personal loans.

Cuevas said she is certainly not involved in these transactions.

“I may seem defensive, but it’s my reputation on the line. I’m sure my hands are clean. I’m willing to answer because I am more knowledgeable. I really welcome that (cash audits from COA and BLGF),” she said.

She added that she understands why Osmeña, as the acting mayor, is interested in looking at the city’s finances since she hasn’t been involved in the executive department being a councilor before assuming as city mayor.

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, Diwa Cuevas, finance, management, Mike Rama, treasurer

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