COA: Capitol’s dev’t fund not optimally utilized

THE view of the Iloilo provincial capitol from the National Museum Western Visayas Regional Museum and Satellite Office. The Commission on Audit again called out the provincial government to optimize its 20 percent development fund for the sake of its constituents. (Ricky Alejo)

By: Gerome Dalipe

ARE appropriations for the 20 percent Development Fund of the Iloilo Provincial Government being used for politicking?

A provincial board member thinks so.

“It seems like the development funds are used as pork barrel during elections,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.

The legislator said development funds are usually distributed to political allies by the sitting chief executive a few months before elections.

The board member reacted after being told about the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the Provincial Government’s accounts and operations for 2018.

In its 2018 annual audit report, state auditors said the public was deprived of vital services and benefits since the Capitol did not “optimally” utilize the allocation of the 20 percent development fund.

Such practice violated the Joint Memorandum Circular 2017 – 1 issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management.

In fact, COA’s observation of the 20 percent DF is a reiteration of its 2017 annual audit report on Iloilo province.

“We also recommended that the PPDO (Provincial Planning and Development Office, Provincial Engineer’s Office, and other implementing offices to coordinate and strategize to optimally utilize the 20 percent development fund,” COA report said.

Pursuant to the Local Government Code of 1991, every local government unit shall appropriate in its annual budget no less than 20 percent of its annual Internal Revenue Allotment for development projects.

The development fund should be utilized to finance the government unit’s priority development projects based on its approved local development plans and Annual Investment Program.

Likewise, these development projects are meant to achieve “desirable socio-economic development and environmental management outcomes of the LGU.

These include the construction or rehabilitation of health centers, rural health units or hospitals, purchase of an ambulance and medical equipment, communal irrigation or water impounding system, construction or rehabilitation of sanitary landfills and materials, among others.

The chief executive is tasked to ensure that the development fund is “optimally utilized” to help achieve its purposes.

But the Iloilo Provincial Government failed to carry out such a mandate, the auditors noted.

“Continuing appropriations for this fund was not reviewed to determine savings from completed program/project/activities and those which were no longer prioritized and to be re-appropriated for other development projects,” the COA report indicated.

State auditors recommended that the governor direct the Local Development Council, the Provincial Planning and Development Office and other implementing offices to review the composition of the 20 percent continuing appropriation.

This aims at identifying the savings of completed projects and those which were no longer prioritized to the provisions of the Local Government Code.

The Capitol officials are also urged to regularly monitor the status of utilization and the programs, projects, activities’ implementation.