Council says funds released to barangays last year valid

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita June 26,2016 - 11:31 PM
 City Councilors James Cuenco (from left), Ritchie Osmeña and Philip Zafra  tackle the resolution to address the defect in last year’s barangay aid during last Wednesday’s session. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

City Councilors James Cuenco (from left), Ritchie Osmeña and Philip Zafra tackle the resolution to address the defect in last year’s barangay aid during last Wednesday’s session. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

In an effort to address the disallowance of Cebu City Hall’s P800 million aid to barangays in 2015, the four-man Cebu City Council approved on Wednesday a resolution upholding the validity of the fund release.

Councilors Philip Zafra, James Cuenco and Richie Osmeña, who are Team Rama allies, said that they are hopeful that the passage of the resolution will be enough to correct deficiencies noted by the Commission on Audit (COA) when it issued the disallowance, which prompted the agency to seek a refund of the barangay aid.

The fourth member of the council, Acting Vice Mayor Lea Japson, who is a Bando Osmena-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) member, said she couldn’t disapprove the proposed resolution because she was the presiding officer and could not vote.

But Japson said that she believed the resolution would have no bearing on the COA disallowance since it stated that the release should first have the approval of the City Council.

“The budget ordinance states that before releasing, we have to approve the POWE (Program of Works and Estimates). The resolution here is just to confirm and reaffirm the budget,” she said.

Japson said that efforts to cure the fault should have been done before the disallowance was made.

She was referring to the Feb. 11, 2016 disallowance issued by state auditors, where they asked suspended Mayor Michael Rama to refund P564.7 million of the P800 million aid released last year.

They said that the fund released lacked the City Council’s approval.

Of the city’s 80 barangays, only four – Lahug, Guadalupe, Labangon and Kasambangan – were unable to receive their share of the aid. Three of the four barangays were allied with BO-PK while Kasambagan has remained neutral.

The City Treasurer’s Office’s records showed that aid ranging from P8 million to P13.25 million were released by the city last year.

Barangay Basak San Nicolas, where the Rama Compound is located, received the biggest share of aid amounting to P13.25 million.

With the COA action, Cebu City Acting Mayor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña earlier warned that she would not allow any new release of aid to the barangays unless the disallowance is settled.

She, however, also said that if there would be new fund releases for the barangays, it would already be smaller than what Rama gave out last year, and it would already be subject to fund availability.

“I will stop doing the illegal practices of Mike Rama. That’s very simple. I’ll follow the law,” she said.

During last Wednesday’s session, Councilors James Anthony Cuenco and Philip Zafra, sponsors of the approved resolution, said that a provision of the budget ordinance, which requires council approval prior to the release of the allocation was vetoed by Rama.

Barangays were also required to submit their development plans.
followed during the fund releases.

“Considering that the condition was vetoed by the Honorable Michael L. Rama, hence, such statement or phrase has been considered as having no legal effect,” their resolution read.

Earlier this year, the Commission on Audit (COA) 7 issued a notice of disallowance on the aid to barangays since they pointed out that the release of the aid didn’t go back to the council.

In an interview, Cuenco said the resolution is needed to cure the defect found by the COA.

“It’s only to ratify (the release) because, according to member Zafra, (during) the last time, it was questioned because it was not ratified by the council. And so, it’s just to cure the defect. We’re just ratifying what was originally discussed,” he said.

He added that they are hopeful that the COA’s notice of disallowance will not be made final and executory.

The approved resolution, however, only mentioned 61 of the city’s 80 barangays that were “confirmed and affirmed” to be legally disbursed.

None of the known Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) allied barangays, like Lahug, Guadalupe, Labangon and Mabolo among others, were included in the list.

Japson even questioned why there was no BO-PK barangays included in
the list.

“Why are only Team Rama barangays covered?” asked Japson.

Also last week, the city government and representatives of COA-7 held an exit conference to discuss all the deficiencies observed by state auditors in the city’s transactions which included the barangay aid.

Acting Mayor Osmeña said that they were advised by COA to just appeal the disallowance.

She said that the city is already preparing an appeal on it.

Asked if the next administration, headed by her husband Tomas Osmeña, will continue to give the financial aid to barangays or not, she said it will have to depend on the city’s financial status.

If there will still be an aid to barangays, she said that it would be smaller than what was appropriated last year.

But when asked if he will continue the aid or not, Tomas, in a press conference last Friday, didn’t give a categorical answer.

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TAGS: Acting Vice Mayor Lea Japson, Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan, barangay assistance, Cebu, Cebu City Council, Cebu City hall, Commission on Audit, Funds

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