The Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2019 report on the provincial government of Palawan, has flagged over P80 million in disallowances, suspension and charges against the province.
The COA report identified P300,000 in suspension, P84 million disallowances and P669,269 in charges for a total of P84,603,670.
COA also cited the province’s “unnecessary and irregular” expenditures for meals and snacks served to visitors during meetings for a total of P24 million which considered as non-essential for year 2019 alone.
“[This] considered non-essential and could be dispensed with pursuant to Section 343 of RA 7160 resulting to incurring unnecessary and irregular expenses,” Commission said.
The report cited the disbursements for detained individuals subsistence allowance including food amounting to P22 million which COA noted did not go through competitive bidding.
Excessive appropriation of P13 million augmentation, rice allocation amounting to P3 million and excessive disbursements amounting P2 million.
“Food subsistence exceeded the P60 daily budget per inmate prescribed by Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” the COA said.
Provincial information officer (PIO) Winston Arzaga told Palawan News that the alleged “excess expenses” was allotted by the provincial government for the additional food allowances of the detained individuals through a supplemental budget approved by the provincial board.
“Kulang kasi at maliit ang budget para sa pagkain nila kaya ang ginawa ay dinagdagan. Supplemental budget ‘yan at dumaan ‘yan sa proseso. Kung sinasabi nila na obese ang mga tao doon ay mas maganda na ‘yon kaysa naman namamayat sila,” Arzaga explained.
COA noted that the provincial budget officer informed them that this was done through “direct augmentations” of the food budget using lumpsum funds.
It said that this was a violation of a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, as the provincial government did not obtain the required prior approval of the provincial board for the use of the lumpsum funds.
“The failure to conduct public bidding adversely affected the declared policy of the State on transparency, competitiveness, and economy in the government procurement. The procurements are neither surprise nor abrupt that the timeline for public bidding cannot be ascertained,” the COA report said.
Arzaga said that they would still send a reply to the commission report, and expressed confidence that the province will be able to clear the issue.
“Kapag ganyan naman hindi ibig sabihin ay guilty ka na kaagad. Pinagpapaliwanag ka nila dahil yan sa nakita nilang sa budget noong nag-audit sila. So kami, on the part of the provincial government kailangan namin sagutin ang COA pero walang naging lapses or irregularities d’yan. Dumaan ‘yan sa proseso kaya walang dapat ikabahala,” Arzaga said.