DUMAGUETE CITY—Gov. Roel Degamo has appealed to the Commission on Audit (COA) regional office in Cebu to reverse a notice of disallowance over “illegal disbursements” totaling P143,268,441.59 for the repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction of structures damaged by calamities, and payments for mobilization fees and progress billings last year.
The COA, in its audit report for 2012 sent to Degamo by supervising auditor Marcelita Sarmiento, said the contracts entered into by Negros Oriental with seven contractors were null and void because of the absence of the allotment and certificate of availability of funds.
All in all, the province awarded infrastructure contracts to the seven contractors amounting to P955,122,944.12, based on the original plan submitted to Malacañang.
The COA recommended that all ongoing projects be immediately stopped and that the province comply with the notices of disallowance issued on Nov. 29 last year.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had issued earlier a special allotment release order (Saro) to Negros Oriental amounting to P480 million, representing half of the requested budget for the repair and rehabilitation of structures damaged by Tropical Storm “Sendong” and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 2012.
However, the DBM sought to stop the disbursement by issuing a “negative Saro” on June 29, 2012. The document covered the entire amount of P955,122,944.12, alleging that the process in releasing the funds was not followed.
Degamo said the department had erred in issuing the negative Saro and blamed then Rep. Josy Limkaichong (first district) for the withdrawal of the money. The lawmaker was aspiring to become governor a few months before the elections.
Limkaichong denied any role in the issuance of the negative Saro, saying that the COA report had vindicated her from the harsh criticism of her rivals during the campaign.
Despite the DBM move, the provincial government continued to award the contracts on July 30, 2012. Degamo defended the move in an interview over dyGB-FM on Thursday, saying the negative Saro was given only after the bidding was conducted.
“This is a calamity fund. As proven in Typhoon ‘Pablo,’ not a single life was lost,” he said.
Under the 2009 Revised Rules of Procedure of the COA, an agency has six months to either comply with a notice of disallowance or to make an appeal. Negros Oriental officials filed the appeal before the COA regional office sometime in April to beat the prescription period.
In its 2012 report, the COA also found the lack of financial and physical status reports on the financial assistance extended by the province to four nongovernment organizations totaling P62,709,616.88 and the failure of officials and employees to settle cash advances amounting to P47,076,694.85.
It noted that the majority of the cash advances had been made in previous years, some dating as far back as 1991, and that some of those who made the advances had been dead or were no longer working with the province.