The 2018 COA Audit Reports: 2 other towns charged masteral expenses of SBMs to LGU funds
posted 24-Jul-2019  ·  
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An examination of the audit reports of the other 10 municipalities shows that, aside from Bagamanoc, two other towns – Baras and Viga - allowed the expenses of Sangguniang Bayan members to be charged to public funds while pursuing their Master’s degrees in 2018.

In Baras, the Commission on Audit disclosed in its recently-issued report on the municipality’s transactions, the LGU allowed payments totaling P681,000 for registration fees, traveling expenses and per diems totaling P370,540 incurred by nine members of the Sangguniang Bayan while studying for a master’s degree through a series of seminars at the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) Legislative Academy in Quezon City.

The nine SB members, and the cost of their seminar participation, were Councilor (now Vice Mayor) Rico Tating (P84,640); then Councilor Joseph Belaro (P96,670); then Councilor Diolito Tanael (P98,330); Councilor Jose Tayoto (P89,360); Councilor Perfecto Guerrero (P80,550); former Councilor Angel Graciano Teston (P80,570); then ex-officio Councilor Gabriel Villanueva (P11,630); Councilor Emerson Oliman (P70,340); and, Councilor Salve Bataanon (P68,890).

In Viga, the amount involved was smaller at P150,600 as the lone Sanggunian members and five LGU employees involved attended only two to four trainings each.

They were: then Vice Mayor Jennifer Tuplano (P23,840); Felizardo Acabado (P30,040); Jocelyn del Rosario (P23,440); Rosalie Calderon (P30,040); John Jesus Ermino (P30,040); and Gemma Isabel Olonan (P19,200).

Last week, the first in a series of articles about COA audit reports showed that Bagamanoc LGU did the same for five of its councilors in 2018: Juan Velchez Jr. (P66,865), Rey Villarino (P91,925), Sherry Ann Peña (P91,925); Edwin de Leon (P8,860), and Mark Anthony Pascua (P110,965).

The COA cited, among others, Section 4(2) of Presidential Decree 1445, which states that government funds or property shall be spent or used solely for public purposes.

“It should be noted that post-graduate studies such as master’s degree is considered personal in nature because only the official or employee pursuing it will primarily benefit from it and not the agency,” the government watchdog stressed. “Thus expenses incurred in relation to such course shall not be charged against public funds unless the LGU has an existing scholarship program for post-graduate studies or has appropriated funds for that purpose.”

Local chief executives and municipal accountants of the three towns admitted that they were not aware of the fact that the seminars would lead to a master’s degree and that the LGU has no such scholarship program and did not appropriate funds for the purpose.

They were told to stop charging such expenses of SB members to government funds and that the concerned officials and employees be directed to explain why they allowed the same.

In Viga, the employees concerned submitted an explanation of the matter, citing DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2011-180 issued by then Secretary Jesse Robredo encouraging local chief executives to allow members of their sanggunians and other interested local government officials and personnel who wish to avail of the course offerings of the Academy, to attend on official business.

The circular stated that the payment of applicable traveling expenses, hotel accommodation and participation fees may be authorized chargeable against local funds, subject to fund availability and accounting and auditing requirements, provided the traveling expenses and participation fees shall not be charged against the 20% component of the Internal Revenue Allotment.

However, the audit team replied that there was no appropriation specifically for the purpose and thus, expenses incurred relative to it will be disallowed.

Launched in 2011 as a partnership with the University of Makati, the Philippine Councilors League Academy offered a 36-unit curriculum leading to a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, major in Local Governance Administration, as well as a masteral course leading to a degree of Master in Development Management and Governance.

The enrollee can finish either of the courses in 14 to 20 months for just P75,000 in tuition fees, the academy website stated.

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