“Exorbitantly higher” was one of the findings of the Commission on Audit referring to the plane ticket expenses of Roxas town officials in the Province of Palawan from the period 2014 to 2015.
According to Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) of COA, the local government unit of Roxas spent P348, 352.95 higher than the actual amount of plane tickets purchased for the travel of its officials and employees.
“Markup on the actual ticket cost per passenger which ranges from P906.00 to P13,000 and the appearance of printed itinerary receipts indicate irregularities on the plane tickets presented by various municipal officials and employees,” the Memorandum stated.
COA said that in the course of audit of the travelling expenses paid to municipal officials and employees in 2014 and 2015, they noted that some plane tickets attached to the travelling expenses were noticeably unusual or different from a typical itinerary receipt that is electronically generated or directly issued by airlines or its authorized ticketing offices.
The COA reports states that examination of the photocopied itinerary receipts showed that some tickets are lacking details such as name of the ticketing agency, fare rules and even the price and payment details. There are also instances when plane tickets appear to be printed/made from Microsoft Word or other windows application and not from the airline web booking portal. Some itinerary receipts are printed in unusual formats and misalignment of figures on the payment details are even apparent.
The COA team conducted initial online verification of the itinerary receipts on respective airline websites using the booking references indicated in the tickets.
“Results of the confirmation disclosed that numerous plane tickets that were reimbursed by different officials and employees were far higher that the ticket prices stated in the itinerary receipts generated online by the team,” the COA report stated.
The COA clarified that the confirmed plane tickets pertain only to those purchased from Cebu Pacific since booking done thru ticketing outlets cannot be verified in other airline websites.
“Hence, these variances may probably be higher if plane tickets from other airlines are accounted,” the report further said.
COA recommended to Mayor Angela Sabando of Roxas town to require the submission of original official receipts issued by the ticketing agencies for all the travels that transpired during the period, require loca lmunicipal official and employees involved and the ticketing agencies to render justification on the excessive variances accounted per plane ticket, obtain ticket directly from the airlines or IATA accredited travel agencies or consider opening government account to any major airline companies to avoid similar excessive charges for tickets and file appropriate case against erring travel agencies or municipal officials.
Based on the detailed report of COA that reached Palawan News most of those who travelled outside of Palawan during the period are Roxas municipal officials including Mayor Angela Sabando.
In an interview of Bandera News to Municipal Councilor Evelyn Borris she said that in July 2015 she delivered a privilege speech regarding his doubt on the possible anomaly in the ticket prices.
“Nalungkot ako kasi ibinalik sa akin ng aking mga kasamahan (sa konseho) ang responsiblidad na ako na ang mag imbestiga. Sa tulong ng mga kaibigan. Natuklasan ko na malaki ang pagkakaiba ng presyo ng mga ticket,” Borris said.
Even the Accounting Office of Roxas has observed the big difference of plane ticket price of Councilor Borris than of other municipal officials and employees.
The initial investigation of Councilor Borris paved way for the investigation of COA which resulted to a bigger discovery of the alleged anomaly.
The Palawan News tried to get the side of some airline ticketing agencies stated in the COA findings but there was no reply received as of writing. Likewise, this publication tried to call and text the number of Mayor Sabando to also get her side on the issue but she did not reply.