By Bicol Express News Reportorial Staff
SORSOGON CITY – The Commission on Audit (COA) had raised red flags on the utilization of COVID-19 funds by the municipal government of Magallanes over several violations of government procurement law.
In its 2020 annual audit report, the COA had noted at least sixteen major violations by the local government unit (LGU) of Magallanes on the use of the pandemic fund which the agency found objectionable. Magallanes was the lone municipality to be cited by the COA for irregularities in the use of the COVID-19 fund.
The report refers to the P11.08 million fund assistance granted by the national government under the Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities (BGCM) which was intended for the effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amount was allocated by the Sangguniang Bayan as proposed by the Office of the Mayor for various expenses as stated in Appropriation Ordinance No. 03-2020 dated April 24, 2020 which included the following: P500,000 for the procurement of personal protective equipment; P300,000 for medicines and vitamins; P400,000 for disinfectants, sprayers, tents, supplies and misting equipment, P1 million for food, transportation, accommodation of medical and LGU personnel involved in the COVID-19 response; P7.5 million for food assistance and relief goods; P1 million for the construction or repair of space or building for COVID patients and persons under monitoring or investigation and P383,427.00 for other necessary COVID-19 PPAs and expenses for a total of P11.083,427.00 which were all placed under the Office of the Mayor.
However, the COA found out that the LGU did not comply with the guidelines issued by the Department of Budget and Management and government agencies on the fund utilization prompting it to raise red flags on Magallanes LGU.
Among the violations cited was the “non-compliance with the guidelines for Emergency Procurement under RA No. 11469” as the audit agency noted that the LGU had not complied with the project requirements for all COVID-19-related procurements and “no proof on the required posting of notice of award, contract or purchase order in the LGU’s website and GPPB online portal”.
The report also noted the violation on the maximum amount allowed for small value procurement (SVP) when the LGU purchased 972 sacks of rice amounting to P1.72 million without bidding. The COA stressed that the municipal government is allowed only a maximum of P200,000 for SVP being a third-class municipality.
State auditors likewise observed that the municipal government charged to the fund ineligible expenses for oils and lubricants which were not related to the COVID-19 operation like the transport of garbage and grass-mowing.
Another patent violation was the repeated failure to comply with documentary requirements as mandated by procurement laws especially those that would show the legitimacy of the transactions especially those that pertained to the purchase of medical devices and supplies involving some P1.03 million.
What was glaring, however, was the failure of the municipal government to account for the relief goods amounting to more than P7.5 million as the LGU failed to provide Relief Distribution Sheets which supposedly contained the list of beneficiaries who purportedly received the goods.
The report said that although a list of beneficiaries was later provided, they were not sorted out as to which relief goods they received whether they came from the provincial government, the LGU or the national government.
Local residents interviewed by BEN said that they received rice rations from the LGU only twice or thrice of 3 to 5 kilos each depending on the barangay they live.
State auditors noted that when they inspected the stocks of the LGU at the end of year 2020, only a little more than P1.5 million worth of relief goods were available for distribution.
It also reiterated its previous observation that the distribution of relief goods must be handled by the Office of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development and not by the Office of the Mayor, which observers say is using the relief distribution for political purpose.
As of this posting, Mayor Augusto Ragragio had relieved the local social welfare officer from her post and put his person of choice instead, a source revealed.
Aside from the P7.5 million from the BGCM fund, the municipal government also allocated P2.2 million from the calamity fund for the purchase of relief goods which included 1,600 bags of rice and another P6.7 million was allocated from the Community Development Fund for COVID-19-related PPAs.
In total, the municipal government allocated at least P19.98 million for its COVID-19 operation in 2020 the disbursement of which the COA found to be inefficient and violative of several laws, rules and regulations.
The numerous violations by the municipal government as stated in the audit report merited a qualified opinion from the state agency.
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