COA rebukes Negros governor for P955M illegal projectsBy Gil Cabacungan |Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Audit (COA) has rebuked reelected Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo for proceeding last year with infrastructure projects worth P955 million despite the lack of official government funding.
The COA has ordered Degamo to follow its notice of disallowance declaring the release of an initial P143.2 million for the projects “illegal.”
In its 2012 audit report released on August 8, the COA said: “Infrastructure contracts amounting to P955,122,944.12 were awarded to seven contractors for the repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction of structures damaged by calamities and payments for mobilization fees and progress billings totaling P382 million were effected, despite the absence of allotment and certificate of availability of funds, contrary to Presidential Decree No. 1445, which rendered the contracts null and void, thus, resulting in illegal disbursements.”
Malacañang had originally released a special allotment release order (Saro) for P961.5 million for nine projects involving the rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by Typhoon “Sendong” and a magnitude-6.8 earthquake that hit Negros Oriental last year.
But the Palace took back the Saro midway last year, a move Degamo claimed was due to political reasons: He was poised to face former lawmaker Jocelyn Limkaichong, the administration candidate in this year’s midterm elections.
But since Degamo went on with the projects and released P143.2 million to pay advances to contractors, the COA deemed the move “illegal” because “there was no longer any allotment to cover the contracts, thus, the contracts awarded thereafter were null and void.”
Degamo has argued that it was the DBM that erred, by withdrawing the Saro.
“The withdrawal of the allotment and subsequent issuance of the negative Saro is patently null, void, and is criminal or felonious and is a mere harassment tool for political ends,” Degamo told auditors late last year.
The COA, however, stood firm on its findings.
“With due respect to the governor’s opinion that the DBM’s issuance of a negative Saro is patently null and void and without any legal effect, we wish to inform [him] that the issuance of negative Saros [is] a long-established procedure by which the DBM makes adjustments to previously released allotments,” the COA said.