A Commission on Audit finding of ghost projects, financial irregularities and fund juggling amounting to billions of pesos has prompted a Puerto Princesa resident to file graft and grave misconduct charges against Mayor Lucilo Bayron.
Mansueto Durana Fuertes filed the case against Bayron and other city officials at the Ombudsman on March 12.
In his 38-page complaint, Fuertes said the statement of comparison of budget against actual amount for 2017 was unreliable as it showed an overstated final budget of P116,313,949.51, and an unreconciled total amount of P184,389,841.56.
Fuertes maintained these were ghost savings and used as continuing appropriations for 2018.
He noted the list of projects covered by Supplemental Budget 1 or Ordinance 08-2017 in the amount of P111,148,895.03 could not be provided by the city accountant or budget officer.
“As per the computation of the Audit Team of COA, the Total and Continuing Appropriations was only P3,289,160,601.77 and P91,978,377.02 for the General Fund and the Special Education Fund, respectively. However, the submitted SCBAA showed more than P124,940,561.53 for the GF and less than P8.626,612,03 for the SEF, thus resulting in an overstated final budget of P116,313,949.51,” Fuertes’s complaint added.
He assailed Bayron for proposing 18 infrastructure projects that cost the people of Puerto Princesa P102,581,564.69 but violated the implementing rules of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.
Fuertes said the invitation to bid posted in PhilGEPS and published in the newspaper showed that the pre-bid conference would be held on Sept. 4, 2015 and the opening of bids would follow on Sept. 17, 2015.
Instead, the pre-bid conference was moved to Sept. 7 and the opening of bids to Sept. 22 with interested parties not given any notice.
Earlier, COA chastised Bayron for loose fund controls as it slapped him with a total of P497,768,478.10 in disallowances and froze the payment of P11,382,269.19 for the city’s obligations.
In an audit report for the year ending December 31, 2017 dated by June 5, 2018 but received by Bayron’s office only on June 14, 2018, COA Region 4-B director regional Ma. Corazon S. Gomez noted 28 instances of major violations of COA rules and circulars from the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Interior and Local Government, as well as the provisions of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code (LGC)and Republic Act 9148 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
In her letter to Bayron, Gomez said that P107,443,439.11 in cash advances to city officials had not been liquidated in violation of COA Circular 97-002 and urged that all these officials should settle their cash advances under pain of legal action.
COA also noted that the city had incurred a cash deficit of P129,079,263.71 in the trust fund account by December 31, 2017, “indicating trust accounts were misapplied. [The] City government cannot meet its obligations in violation of Sections 335 (e) and 337 of RA 7160.”
In effect, the commission said, the proceeds of the trust fund were juggled to bankroll other expenses and asked Bayron and the city government to return the money to eliminate the deficit.
COA also expressed doubt about the veracity of the receivables from real property taxes (RPT) and Special Education Tax amounting to P139,167,938.60 and P69,583,969.30, respectively, saying these were based on assessments by the City Assessor and not from a verified list of taxpayers.
Bayron’s administration also failed to implement 149 infrastructure projects costing P741,359,970.48 in 2017, with 80 projects valued at P344,501,560.99 not included in the city’s monitoring report, COA disclosed.
Of the 48 infrastructure projects to be implemented, only four were completed.
COA chided Bayron for disbursing P15,504,500 for fiestas, awards, honoraria, and other expenses without documentation, which auditors said “constitute irregular, excessive, extravagant and unnecessary expenditures.”
Moreover, P17,588,000 for plantilla positions or personnel services was realigned to public welfare assistance under maintenance and other operating expenses without any ordinance allowing such realignment.
In addition, a total of P100,946,410 from the donation fund was spent on financial assistance without documentation, and P48,537,600 went to so-called indigents.