Cebu mayor told to explain use of school funds

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CEBU CITY—The Commission on Audit (COA) has asked Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to explain why he should not be held liable for what the COA said was the illegal use of P56.3 million of the city’s Special Education Funds (SEF).

The state auditors also asked the Local School Board (LSB) to submit documents that would justify the SEF expenses.

“In the event that no satisfactory explanation can be given, hold these officials personally liable for these illegal disbursements,” said the audit observation memorandum of Eva Cabrera, state auditor.

Based on the audit memorandum, the P56.3 million charged to the SEF did not qualify under Section 272 of the Local Government Code.

The law provides that the SEF should only be used for the operation and maintenance of public schools; construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment; educational research; purchase of books and periodicals; and sports development, as determined and approved by the LSB.

Yet, the city charged P48.2 million to the SEF as performance incentives for public school teachers, which were released on Dec. 28.

Other charges made to the SEF were the following: P2.9 million in SEF for psychological tests for teachers, P3.9 million for food and accommodation during activities of the Department of Education, P1 million for door prizes during the Teachers’ Day celebration and P300,000 for the Teachers Scholarship Tuition.

Councilor Jose Daluz III, LSB head, said this was the first time in Cebu City that an audit observation memorandum was issued in such a short time.

But he said the memorandum was no cause for alarm because this was not a ruling that disallowed the SEF expenses.

Mayor Rama said he has yet to read the memorandum but was confident that he would be able to explain the expenses.

“We will have to go through the usual procedure. We will sit down on this,” said Rama.

In an audit memorandum dated Jan. 7, Cabrera said the COA found deficiencies and errors in expenses charged to the SEF when auditors checked disbursements made from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2012.

Cabrera cited the release of P10,000 as additional performance incentives to teachers amounting to P48 million.

The incentive was already “on top of other legally authorized benefits,” the memorandum said.

“The giving of such incentives may affect other vital projects,” it said.

Cabrera also noticed there was no document to support the release of P48 million from the SEF except the memorandum issued by Rama authorizing the disbursement.

Cabrera also pointed to notes on the cash disbursement voucher that said city treasurer Emma Villarete and city accountant Diwa Cuevas approved the voucher with “objections.”

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Tags: Cebu , Commission On Audit , Michael Rama

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