FUNDS USED ON COMEDIAN, FIREWORKS: Capitol’s P380K aid for towns’ ‘soft projects’ questioned

By: Gerome Dalipe

THE Iloilo Provincial Government released at least P380,000 as financial assistance to two municipalities for their various socio-cultural activities in 2018.

Instead of using the funds for the intended purposes, the mayors of Banate and Sta. Barbara utilized the money to reimburse their respective expenses, the Commission on Audit (COA) found out in the 2018 audit report on the Capitol.

For instance, the mayor of Banate used the fund transfers to refund his expenses totaling P280,000 instead of funding the Kasag Festival.

Among the expenses charged to the funds were the purchase of oversized tarpaulins with Christmas greetings and photos of the mayor in Banate.

The Sta. Barbara municipal government also used the P100,000 financial assistance of the Iloilo Provincial Government for the full-length film on the “Cry of Sta. Barbara” in 2018 instead of its socio-cultural activities.

Despite the questionable utilization of the financial aid, the Iloilo Provincial Government still credited the fund transfers to the two municipalities, state auditors discovered.

The two municipalities utilized their fund transfers not in accordance to the purpose they were intended thus, violating provisions of the memorandum of agreement and Sec. 305 of the Local Government Code, the auditors noted.

Pursuant to the agreement of fund transfer for “soft projects between Capitol and the several municipalities, the mayors are mandated to disburse the fund for the intended purposes.

The municipalities are required to strictly comply with the approved project proposals, pursuant to the government auditing rules.

Likewise, Sec. 305 of the Local Government Code provides that local government funds should be spent solely for public purposes and trust funds in the local treasury.

But liquidation reports by various towns showed that three municipalities did not comply with the agreement and the fund utilization did not pass the public purpose test.

In Sta. Barbara, the fund was used to pay for entertainment band, stand-up comedian, fireworks and laser shows, snacks, among others.

Likewise, the auditors said that review of the disbursement vouchers for the fund transfers showed lack of activity designs.

“The hiring of a stand-up comedian and entertainment band, the printing of oversized tarpaulins with photos of political figures, and fireworks and laser shows were not necessary or essential in the operations of an LGU,” read the auditors’ report.

Thus, the Provincial Government should not have credited the fund transfers to the municipalities since the spending was irregular, the auditors said.

In the report, the Commission on Audit asked the governor to direct the provincial accountant to evaluate the liquidation report to ensure proper fund utilization.

The auditors also urged the Provincial Government to reverse the credit of the towns’ liquidations and to initiate appropriate action to correct the fund spending.