4 COA execs tied to scam
Four officials of the Commission on Audit (COA), including a now retired commissioner and state auditors, did not only look the other way but also helped officials of National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) go around adverse reports involving spurious liquidation papers in exchange for cash and gifts, according to witnesses in the new P500-million pork barrel scam case.
The witnesses, former employees of Nabcor, told the Inquirer in separate interviews they had personal knowledge that former COA Commissioner Juanito Espino Jr., former Director Tito Nabua and state auditors Herminia Aquino and Carmelita Sanchez benefited from Nabcor through its president, Alan Javellana.
The Inquirer asked the COA public information office on Friday for comment. It said Espino and Nabua retired in 2013 and that Aquino died earlier this year. It had no information about Sanchez.
Javellana, one of the accused in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly orchestrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, could not be contacted for comment.
The witnesses also said that the implementation of projects financed with legislators’ shares of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through Nabcor was marred with irregularities with the imprimatur of Javellana.
“Every year from 2008 to 2010, audit observation memoranda for fiscal years 2007-2009 were received by Nabcor with discovered irregularities. However, Nabcor merely sent reports to the COA saying it would comply with the audit observations,” witnesses Vic Cacal and Rhodora Mendoza said in a joint statement submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman by their lawyer, Levito Baligod.
“Mr. Javellana blatantly disregarded rules and regulations and allowed the malversation of the PDAF because of his connections with certain officials of the COA,” the witnesses said.
“True enough, DA-COA had regularly issued credit notices to Nabcor to clear the latter’s payments to NGOs (nongovernment organizations) even if no supporting documents were submitted,” they said.
Cacal and Mendoza said the COA officials “assisted and coached [us] how to go around adverse audit observations that would result in the issuance of credit notices clearing Nabcor payments to NGOs even without sufficient documents.”
The witnesses said they knew about the irregularities because of their positions at Nabcor: Cacal was head of the general services department and Mendoza was vice president for finance.
Mendoza and Cacal narrated how the COA officials received bribes in exchange for their assistance in going around questionable liquidations of NGOs and issuance of clear credit notices.
“GM (referring to Espino) meets directly with Javellana apart from being a recipient of one lot of Saanen Breed goats that I facilitated,” Cacal said in an interview.
At that time, a Saanen Breed goat cost around P10,000 and one lot consisted of 10 goats, he said.
“Nabua was the beneficiary of a P15-million loan from an Acef (Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) funded project and was the one who coached us how to remedy adverse findings by auditors,” Mendoza said in a separate interview.
“Based on our records, Nabua did not pay a centavo for his loan for a project in San Fabian, Pangasinan,” she said.
Car for Aquino
Mendoza also said that Aquino, being the supervising auditor, received “a car under her son’s name but the monthly amortization was paid by Nabcor through Javellana.”
She added that she knew about the gift because it was she who purchased the car and she arranged for a parking allocation for it at the Nabcor office at Tektite Towers.
“She (Aquino) was given a car through speedway electronics and was always given allowances when she traveled abroad,” Mendoza said.
She added that Aquino remained the supervising auditor of Nabcor even after she was assigned as auditor of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
According to Mendoza, Sanchez “facilitated the sale of a lot in Tagaytay, which was bought by Javellana in exchange for not releasing the special audit report.”
In a telephone interview, Cacal said that in 2009 he was asked by Javellana to accompany him to a meeting with some high-ranking COA officials so “that I could address my questions to [them] regarding how to remedy the audit observations on the liquidation of the PDAF of certain legislators.”
“Javellana introduced me to Espino and another auditor in a restaurant near SM Fairview where I was prompted to state questions regarding negative audit observations of the liquidations submitted by the NGOs,” Cacal said.
“The COA officials instead of answering any of my questions just told me to receive the documents submitted by the NGOs and not to validate them anymore. They said that what was important was that the documentary requirements appeared to be complete and they would take care of the rest,” Cacal said.
Since then, Cacal said he, on Javellana’s orders, “frequently met with the COA officials to purposely discuss remedial measures in the audit observations concerning Nabcor.”
He added that whenever he and Mendoza brought to Javellana’s attention the liquidation papers of the NGOs, which were “manufactured and contained highly questionable names of beneficiaries,” but Javellana told them to just follow the instructions of the COA officials.
“The goods or merchandise submitted by the NGO for inspection by Nabcor prior to delivery is the same merchandise submitted for inspection by the same NGO in other PDAF-funded projects. The NGO would only change the tarpaulin to fit a particular project. The NGO takes pictures reflecting different tarpaulins to show that these goods are for different projects,” Cacal and Mendoza said in their joint statement.
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