Garcia left Cebu province in debt by P800M, says new gov

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Cebu Gov Gwen Garcia CDN FILE PHOTO

CEBU CITY, Philippines—The new Cebu governor has to face a debt of almost P800 million, which he inherited from the administration of former governor Gwendolyn Garcia who is now the congressional representative of the province’s third district.

Citing reports from the provincial treasurer’s office, Governor Hilario Davide III said it was not true that Cebu was debt-free, as Garcia claimed when she turned over the reins of the provincial government to Davide on June 30.

Based on billing statements received by the capitol, Cebu province has payables of P788 million and has almost the same amount of money in the bank—P791 million.

“It’s obvious that the province is not debt-free,”  Davide said.

Ramil Abing, Davide’s chief of staff, said a group has been assigned to review the financial condition of the province.

Abing said most of the payables had no supporting documents, like vouchers, and contracts for services or projects which the capitol is being asked to pay had not been ratified by the provincial board.

The new administration also plans to ask for help from the Commission on Audit to determine if payment should be made to those who are demanding payment of what are supposed to be the province’s debts although there are no accompanying vouchers or other supporting documents.

The payables include a bill from Sugbutel, a small hotel in the city, for P231,845 for the accommodation on December 18, 2012 of 126 barangay health workers who joined a prayer vigil for Garcia outside the capitol building in anticipation of a suspension order from Malacañang.

On December 19, 2012, the Office of the President issued an order suspending Garcia for six months for alleged grave abuse of authority for usurping the powers of the vice governor.

Garcia defied the suspension order and holed herself up in the governor’s office until January when she sneaked out to go to Oslob town, about 115 kilometers  south of this city, to inaugurate the briefing center of the Oslob Whale Shark Watching program. Then acting Govermpr Agnes Magpale immediately padlocked the office of the governor to keep Garcia out.

Another bill, this one for P63-million, came from  ConEquip, a firm that sold to the capitol at least 27 tourist buses given by Garcia to different towns for “Suroy-Suroy Cebu,” the province’s local tourism program.

Abing said that while the new capitol administration is reviewing the documents for the purchase of the tourists buses, Davide planned to pay the supplier because the buses have been delivered.

“The governor will find a way to pay this transaction,” Abing said.

But the payment cannot be made until the deal to purchase the buses has been ratified by the provincial board, albeit belatedly.

Abing said only payables covered by documents, like vouchers, and certificates of ratification by the provincial board would be given priority in payment.

Initial evaluation showed that of the nearly P800 million in payables, only P126 million worth of transactions had supporting documents.

Abing could not say if bills not covered by proper documents would not be paid.

“We will let the governor decide,” he said.

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