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COA: Echiverri spent P1B on illegal projects

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Caloocan City Mayor Enrico EcheverriI PHOTO/ N. J. ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines–Caloocan Mayor Enrico “Recom” Echiverri violated the Local Government Code when he entered into contracts and authorized the release of over P1 billion for various projects without the authorization of the city council, a 2011 Commission on Audit report released late last month said.

The report also noted that the projects that were supposedly funded by the releases were not specified as well as the amount appropriated for each one.

COA examiners led by Director Divinia Alagon said in their report that Echiverri violated Republic Act No. 7160 when, without the city council’s approval, he funded local development projects worth P81.911 million under the 2011 Annual Appropriations ordinance.

He again violated the law when he approved a P980-million supplemental budget, later funded by a P1.42-billion bank loan.

“In the annual budget of 2011, it was noted that the amount (P81.911 million) was lumped with no specific projects to be implemented. The ordinance did not provide details [of] the projects to be implemented and their cost,” COA said.

The same was true of the supplemental budget ordinance for the amount of P980 million, it added.

“It only provides lump sum appropriations for [a] sports center, public markets, barangay (village) halls, city pound building, commercial building, trading center [and] community water system, among others,” the COA said in its report.

“In other words, the appropriation was in generic terms and lacks specificity, thus, [it] will require Sangguniang authority,” it added, citing a Supreme Court ruling requiring the approval of ordinances detailing the projects to be funded before their implementation.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to reach Echiverri for comment but calls to Caroliza delos Santos, the city’s public information officer, went unanswered. With a report from Kristine Felisse Mangunay

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