Capitol questioned on nearly P1M food expenses

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita July 20,2016 - 10:43 PM

STATE auditors considered as “unnecessary” the nearly P1 million spent by the Cebu provincial government for food served in meetings, sessions and caucuses last year.

In their Annual Audit Report (AAR) of the provincial government, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that P966,637.69 was charged to Representation Expenses as reimbursements and payments for food.

The food were served during executive or legislative meetings, sessions of the Provincial Board and their caucuses and committee meetings in the Capitol.

Based on the COA report, the biggest expense was made during caucuses of the PB, which they usually hold over lunch just before their 2 p.m. regular session every Monday, worth P212,562.

This was followed by expenses incurred by the offices of PB members Christopher Baricuatro (P126,483), Raul Alcoseba (P93,201.23), Joven Mondigo Jr. (P61,905.15) and Sun Shimura (P59,268.12).

The vice governor’s office also spent P41,750 for food while the rest of the PB members spent between P1,600 to P49,000.

Several committees also spent for food including the Economic Enterprise Council (P51,500), Complaints and Investigation (P40,823.90) and the Local Finance Committee (P12,123.40) among others.

“We recommend that the elected officials and department heads concerned should exercise prudence in incurring food expenses during executive meetings, sessions/caucuses and committee meetings,” COA said.

State auditors also suggested that expenses for food during meetings could instead be charged to the representation allowances of the elected officials and department heads since these are in relation to their official functions.

COA also found out that no inspection was made for the items served and that there were no program of activities and minutes of meetings to prove the necessity of the food expenditures.

They recommended that inspections be done and that the documents be also included to justify the purchase of the food.

In its comment, the province argued that the expenses for food were not unnecessary since the food were served during official meetings and were considered an operational expense.

They also explained that representation allowances can’t be used for food during meetings since these are for personal or public relations expenses like entertaining informal or over-the-counter visitors.

“Nevertheless, Cebu province is considering to place limits on meals/snacks during meetings,” COA said in its report.

In a separate interview, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale defended the food expenses.

“We always serve food during caucuses. It’s not just for board members. We also have visitors,” she said.

She said the PB also conducts investigations and hearings wherein they also serve food to the lawyers and witnesses of both sides.

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