Several barangays in Puerto Princesa City were cited by the Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2020 audit for “unjustified failure” to settle more than P19 million in Covid funds they received from the city government.

The state auditors, in its 2020 annual report that was received by the Office of the City Mayor on June 30, a copy of which was disclosed to the public on Thursday, July 15, said demand letters were sent to barangay officials in six villages in Puerto Princesa City, including Irawan, San Miguel, Sta. Monica, Sicsican, Tagburos, and Tagumpay, to submit distribution reports on the financial assistance granted to the barangay officials.

“The failure of the barangay officials to liquidate/submit distribution reports is a clear violation of Section 4.1 of COA Circular No. 97-002 which requires that the cash advance shall be reported on as soon as the purpose for which it was granted has been served,” the report stated.

The city government, through Resolution No. 463-2020, had authorized the city mayor to use unutilized DRRMF funds amounting to more than P153 million to extend P1,500 financial assistance distributed throughout 66 barangays.

Of the P19 million unliquidated cash assistance funds, P381,000 remained unsettled for Irawan; P5,496,000 for San Miguel; P9,468,000 for Sicsican; P3,988,500 for Sta. Monica; P250,500 for Tagburos; and P144,000 for Tagumpay.

The City Accountant, in its reply which was also part of the audit observations, confirmed that demand letters had been sent to accountable officers, committing to comply with the audit recommendations.

State auditors also noted “erroneous recording” and “doubtful spending” of funds drawn from Bayanihan Grant and Calamity Fund, while stating that the city government had utilized 99 percent of more than P248 million reported balance from the Bayanihan Grant.

The fund utilization, however, was “doubtful due to unreliable records” including the procurement of COVID-19 rapid test kits and medicines, and expenses incurred for hotel rentals that were used as temporary quarantine facilities.

“The procurement of COVID-19 rapid test kits amounting to P3,807,482.15 was not supported with detailed specifications. It is important that only FDA-approved rapid test kits should be procured to ensure the test falls within an acceptable range of quality and that the public is protected against substandard rapid test kits,” the report read.

In its assessment, COA also observed that the CDRRMO “failed to adopt an orderly storage system and adequate controls to safeguard the procured drugs and medicines, equipment, food and non-food supplies”.

The report also pointed out that more than P8 million worth of medicines were purchased by the City without the necessary documents, questioning the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) process that sought clarifications as to why a certain Rite One Pharma was not blacklisted despite non-compliance with the terms of the contract.

The City Budget Officer, City Accountant, and BAC Secretariat, in their reply which was also included on the COA report, admitted lapses on the documentary requirements pointing out that those were merely “due to emergency in nature” of the transactions.

In its rejoinder, the city government officials had since vowed to comply with the audit recommendations.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.