COA frowns CamSur finances Capitol fails to account P812M taxpayers’ money

QUEZON CITY — The Camarines Sur provincial government’s financial records are in disarray. The Commission on Audit in its report on the accounts and operations of the provincial capitol for calendar year 2007 found a discrepancy of over P812 million in its property, plant and equipment inventory “which cannot be ascertained due to the inability of Management (Capitol) to complete the physical count and reconcile the records of the Accounting and General Services Offices” of the said provincial government unit.

Moreover, the audit report said, the provincial government concerned “did not submit some accounts for CY 2007 amounting to P20,761,685.41, thus, the validity, legality and reliability of the transactions could not be determined.”

In fact, the COA report revealed some 21 more glaring findings which involved taxpayers’ money not properly accounted. The unaccounted amount could reach P1 billion, it was estimated.

The provincial government’s appropriation for 2007 amounted to P1,034,065,169.94 while actual obligations totaled to only P841,664,435.04 with unobligated balance of P160,664,822.32, the COA report showed.

The same report noted that various infrastructure projects implemented since 2003 and totaling P106,043,596.31, or 65 percent of the total ‘construction in progress’ account of P161,482,099.96 remained unfinished as of year-end 2007, which, according to COA violated the terms and conditions of the covering contracts and deprived the government and the public of the essential benefits that could be derived therefrom.

Advances to contractors amounting to over P32 million were reportedly paid to 15 different contractors of projects implemented since 2004 but which projects remained unfinished as of year-end 2007.

Shipping vessel

The COA recommended that proper sanctions as stipulated in the contracts, like liquidated damages and blacklisting of poor or non-performing contractors, be strictly imposed upon defaulting contractors. It also recommended that the Provincial Engineer’s Office validate the actual accomplishments of all the projects.

The COA report also noted that the provincial government recently paid in advance the amount of P12,242,500.00 for the purchase of one unit of shipping vessel and one unit of 50-footer catamaran passenger ferry contrary to Section 338 of RA 7160 and section 88 of PD 1445.

Trust funds amounting to more than P10 million and received from national government agencies entrusted to the Province of Camarines Sur were used for payment of various expenses contrary to purposes indicated in the respective Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and contrary to Section 4 (3) of PD 1445, the COA report stated.

COA reminded that any public officer who shall apply public fund or property to any public use other than for which such fund was appropriated by law may be found liable for violating Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.

COA said inventory account balances for food and other supplies, raw materials, finished goods, drugs and medicines and accountable forms amounting to P4.8 million could not be relied upon due to the failure of the provincial government to comply with existing rules on requisition, and other physical inventory procedures.

P550M loan

The COA report also noted that borrowings in the total amount of P550 million contracted by the provincial government from various financial institutions were taken up in the Local Government Fund special account books instead of maintaining a separate special account in the General Fund for loans, thereby concealing accurate and separate information on the status of the special account on loans.

It averred that had the provincial government implemented projects in accordance with what had been agreed upon in the loan agreement, the provincial government could have derived the maximum benefits intended from borrowing funds to finance diverse development projects.

It further noted that numerous vouchers for check disbursements, liquidation of cash advances, and obligation of year-end payables amounting to over P20 million were not submitted to the Office of the Auditor, thus prohibiting review and examination of the same.

The COA report stressed that of the 22 audit recommendations earlier embodied in the 2006 and 2005 annual audit reports, only five were fully implemented, 16 partially implemented and one not implemented.

It is estimated that it would take a gargantuan task to put the province’s financial records in their proper order considering the mind-boggling amounts and multifarious transactions involved.(BicolMail)

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