City accountant Charlito Padul on Monday told the City Council that demand letters were being sent on a "regular basis" to liquidate the unliquidated cash advances charged against the local budget. (Photo courtesy of Sangguniang Panlungsod Puerto Princesa)

The City Council on Monday questioned several offices of the city government about the negative findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on its finances for the fiscal year 2020 which highlighted, among other negative observations, excessive unliquidated cash advances by accountable officials and alleged underutilization of COVID-19 funds.

Charlito Padul, the city accountant, during the Question Hour at the City Council on July 26, said that they have been acting on the COA observations about unliquidated cash advances by sending out demand letters to the accountable officers on a quarterly basis.

“Ang accounting office, quarterly kami ay nagpapadala ng demand letter sa ating mga accountable officer. ‘Yon talagang di na nakakarating sa kanila ay ‘yong di natin alam ang whereabouts pero regular ‘yong pag send, demanding them to liquidate their unliquidated cash advances,” Padul said.

Unliquidated cash advances, Bayanihan grant, and special education funds were among the concerns highlighted in the recently released COA 2020 audit report.

“Cash advances amounted to P82,057,542.62 million as of December 31, 2020. The accompanying expenses were not recorded in the year they were incurred since P45,551,692.95, or 55.51 percent, of the total cash advances remained unliquidated,” the COA report read.

CDRRMO findings
For its part, the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) reported that their local storage has been cleared and improved, after the COA made an observation about wastage of medicines.

City councilor Elgin Damasco reiterated the COA’s observations and findings on the use and administration of Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (LDRRM), which were not in compliance with existing rules and regulations, such as operating expenses amounting to P5.3 million that were improperly charged to the local disaster fund, cash advances charged to the quick response fund, and specious expenditures charged to the local disaster fund.

According to Earl Timbancaya, City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRM) head, the P5 million was allotted for the salaries of their staff who work 24 hours a day, adding that every local government unit was required to establish a 24-hour emergency operations center.

“The 5 million ay ‘yong operating expenses na chinarge natin, sweldo ng ating personnel that are operating under the 24 hour basis. Every LGU kasi is required to have an emergency operation center on a 24 hour basis. So ang 5 million na ‘yan chargeable sa sweldo ng ating mga personnel,” he said.

He likewise informed the body that the emergency operation center was included in the programs, projects, and activities of the approved Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (LDRRMP).

“Gusto ko lang i-inform na ‘yong ating emergency operation center is part ng programs, project and activities ng ating approved local disaster risk reduction management plan. It was also included in the annual investment program,” Timbancaya added.

“Kung hindi po i-allow ni commission on audit ‘yan we will be requesting that the said salaries be charged against the general fund,” he added.

Bayanihan Grant
Moreover, regarding the audit observation of the P248 million bayanihan grant, those city’s and municipality’s. The COA has requested an explanation from the City Budget Office (CBO) on the use of the bayanihan fund to cover hospital leasing costs as temporary quarantine facilities.

According to Regina Cantillo, chief of the City Budget Office (CBO), there was an increase in the supplementary budget for the leasing of quarantine and isolation facilities, therefore they financed it, citing it as “legal” because their DGCM has a supplemental budget and is part of the general fund. The augmentation is provided for under the augmentation clause in the appropriation ordinance.

“Nagkaroon ng augmentation sa supplemental budget ”yong rental ng mga quarantine and isolation facilities kaya naponduhan ”yong rental natin. Legal po ‘yon dahil ”yong DGCM natin ay may supplemental budget so part po sya ng general fund. ”yong provision under the augmentation sa ating appropriation ordinance inallow naman ”yong augmentation,” she said.

The issue was taken up by the Council after the utilization reported of Bayanihan Grant to city’s and municipality’s fund by the city government of Puerto Princesa amounting to P248,624,308 million, disclosed lapses such as the utilization of funds with a total of 44.8 million was not in accordance with the approved supplemental budget, incomplete documentation of disbursement, and the non-posting of the required reports in the website of the local government.

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