COA: P25M spent on ‘ghost’ calamity in Isabela
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Audit (COA) has uncovered alleged ghost deliveries of relief purchased with the P25-million pork barrel allotments of two party-list lawmakers and meant for victims of a calamity in Isabela province in 2013.
In a scheme similar to that allegedly hatched by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, officials of 35 of the 36 municipalities in Isabela denied receiving the food items supposedly bought by the provincial social welfare office, state auditors said.
The food packs, which were purportedly delivered to beneficiaries in January 2013, were purchased through the National Aid to Local Government Unit program.
Of the P25 million, COA said, P15 million came from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as pork barrel, of ABS Rep. Catalina Leonen-Pizarro.
The remaining amount came from the PDAF of 1-CARE Rep. Michael Angelo Rivera.
In the report, COA auditors said Gov. Faustino Dy III and other provincial officials violated Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Act, in buying the food items and other goods without public bidding.
Documents gathered by the COA showed that the payment for the “reimbursement of food and groceries” was made to lawyer Allan Ty, a resident of Cauayan City.
The National Bureau of Investigation conducted its own inquiry into the deal but said no calamity was reported in the province at the time to justify the purchase of relief items.
“There was no competitive bidding conducted on the procurement of the goods in violation of Section 10 of RA 9184, which requires that all procurement shall be done through competitive bidding,” the COA report said.
“Instead, shopping was used despite the fact that the procured items exceeded the maximum amount/threshold of P500,000,” it added.
In a letter to Dy dated Dec. 3, 2013, state auditors Rita Pablo and Teresita Rios said the provincial social welfare development officer had failed to “specify the specific reason of the urgency of the items procured.”
Pablo and Rios said local officials also admitted that the “grocery items were not likewise recorded in the books of accounts” of the local government units.
In her report to NBI Director Virgilio Mendez, NBI agent Pia Hazel Bulwayan said Ty returned P25 million to the provincial coffers on Dec. 13, 2013, after Dy had sent him a demand letter.
Bulwayan said the municipal social welfare officers also disclosed that there was no “calamity or disaster … that could have caused their municipalities to need and request those large amounts of relief.”
The scheme was similar to that allegedly employed by Napoles and her alleged coconspirators in Congress, mainly Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, to pocket billions of pesos of public funds through ghost projects funded by the legislators’ pork.
The three senators are now detained on plunder charges.
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