COA uncovers P66M pork scam at DOTC

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Former Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. in a photo used in one of his campaign posters during the May elections.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has failed to account for roughly P66 million worth of computers and equipment bankrolled by pork barrel funds of nine lawmakers led by former Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr.

In its report released Thursday on DOTC’s performance and financial transactions in 2011, the Commission on Audit (COA) noted “deficiencies” in the agency’s procurement of information technology (IT) equipment using the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of the members of the House of Representatives.

The COA specifically questioned the lack of official documents showing that the 762 donated computers were indeed received by the barangays (villages), schools and municipalities and DOTC’s decision to drop the  computer purchases from its books without resolving questions on their  delivery.

In one of its findings, the COA said only one person, who was not even the user or beneficiary, signed invoice receipts of property (IRP) involving more than 500 sets of IT equipment. It said the serial numbers of the computers did not match the IRPs.

“The deficiencies noted understated the recorded equipment of the national government and the accountability and responsibility over the unrecorded or unbooked equipment were not completely fixed and established,” it said.

The report covered DOTC’s operations in 2011 when the agency was led by Jose “Ping” de Jesus (June 2010 to July 2011) and Manuel Roxas II (July 2011 to October 2012). The DOTC is currently headed by Secretary Joseph Abaya.

The bulk of the donations was made by Defensor, who allocated P49.25 million of his pork barrel to purchase 500 computers (or P100,000 each) for 37 barangays in the third district of Quezon City. Defensor, as chair of the committee on justice, was the main figure behind the rejection of attempts to impeach then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Other lawmakers

The other eight lawmakers tagged by the COA were former Representatives Victor E. Agbayani of Pangasinan (40 sets worth P3.999 million), Rene Velarde of Pampanga and  Albert Garcia of Bataan (combined 30 sets worth P2.999 million), Jesus Crispin Remulla (30 sets worth P2.999 million), Darlene R. Antonio-Custodio of General Santos (51 sets worth P1.966 milion), Fredenil H. Castro of Capiz (40 sets worth P1.982 million), Junie Evangelista Cua  of Quirino (16 sets worth P589,824.00), and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (55 sets P1.969 million).

In a phone interview, Remulla denied having allocated part of his pork barrel to donate computers for the DOTC program and that he doubted whether the funds used for the computers came from pork barrel funds.

“I think that since most of the so-called donors worked on major committees involved in the budget process, these funds were probably ‘accommodations’ from the agency for our work. I think the COA should have verified with us whether we allocated our pork barrel funds for this project. The COA should have presented us with papers that we signed attesting to these pork barrel releases before making this report to avoid misleading the public,” Remulla said.

He pointed out that six of the lawmakers identified by COA—Defensor, Agbayani, Velarde, Custodio, Castro and Cua—had stepped down after the 14th Congress in July 2010. Remulla and Garcia left after the end of the 15th Congress.

Remulla said that lawmakers did not hold the pork barrel funds but merely directed government agencies where to spend them. He said that in this case, the COA report itself pinned the blame for the missing computers on the DOTC for not making sure whether the computers were purchased and delivered.

The COA said that based on its recommendations, the DOTC management had already asked the various agency-beneficiaries to submit their documents before dropping the computer purchases from the department’s books.

These records are necessary to “fix and establish accountability and responsibility in safeguarding the equipment against misuse or possible loss,” the COA said.

Originally posted at 09:37 pm | Thursday, July 25, 2013

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