COA hits G-Hernandez for P13M unused funds

The Commission on Audit (COA) has rebuked another local government unit (LGU) in Bohol for alleged neglect of its constituents after its officials failed to utilize the town’s disaster preparedness and priority development funds.

In its latest report, COA slammed Garcia-Hernandez LGU for not using disaster preparedness funds allocated in 2014, 2015, and 2016 amounting to P2,967,005.90, “… defeating the purpose for which the fund was established and appropriated thus, responsiveness to disaster risk management may not be properly addressed to the disadvantage of the constituents.”

The government’s sole auditing agency also uncovered an idle amount of ₱10,709,213.40 which had been appropriated for development projects in 2016 but was not utilized by the town’s executive body, “… thereby delaying the delivery of socio-economic and environmental development benefits to the constituents.”

In another COA report, the town of Ubay was also reprimanded by COA after it failed to utilize its 20-percent development fund worth P19 million.

Elsewhere in Bohol, the COA had noticed that millions of pesos of public funds are just sitting on LGUs’ local bank accounts, unspent for projects and programs that would have benefited the public.

IDLE DISASTER FUND

As provided under Republic Act No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, Rule 18 states that “not less than5 percent of the estimated revenue from regular sources shall be set aside as the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund(LDRRMF)to support disaster risk management activities, such as but not limited to, pre-disaster preparedness programs including training, purchasing life-saving rescue equipment, supplies and medicines, for post disaster activities, for the payment of premiums on calamity insurance and construction of evacuation centers.”

The law was established in order to “better prepare for and lessen theimpact of deadly and costly natural and man-made hazards/disasters with the goal of promotingsocio-economic growth.”

For an LGU, allocating disaster preparedness funds is not an option, but mandatory and a statutory requirement, as provided by RA 10121.

The law mandates LGUs to allocate 70% of the said fund for Disaster Preparedness, Mitigation and Prevention and the remaining 30% will beset aside as Quick Response Fund (QRF) or stand-by fund for relief and recovery program inthe event of actual disasters epidemics calamities or emergencies.

However, in the town of Garcia-Hernandez, Bohol, COA disclosed that the LGU, though it had prepared a budget for disaster preparedness, as of December 31, 2016, at least P2.9 million remains unutilized.

“The non-implementation of the programs/projects and activities embodied in theLDRRM plans reduces the LGUs institutional capacity for disaster risk reduction and management,” the COA said in its 2016 report.

COA has urged the LGU Garcia-Hernandez to “closely monitor and ensure that the LDRRMplanned program/projects/activities are implemented and give due regard on themaximum utilization of the 70% for pre-disaster preparedness programs so that intendedpurpose is attained/achieved as required Section 1 and 2 of Rule 18, Republic Act 10121.”

UNTOUCHED DEVELOPMENT FUND

Meanwhile, in the same COA report, the agency found that not only was the fund for disaster preparedness left unutilized, but also a huge chunk of the town’s 20-percent development fund.

Every year, each LGU is mandated by law to allocate 20 percent out of its total annual budget (sourced out from the Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA) for development-related projects.

A joint memorandum circular forged between the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has outlined these social development projects, including the construction and rehabilitation of health centers, hospitals, potable water supply system, evacuation centers, drug education and rehabilitation centers, multipurpose halls; purchase of medical equipment; rehabilitation of historical sites; and installation of street lighting system, among others.

It also listed the construction or rehabilitation of communal irrigation or water impounding system, and roads and bridges; purchase of post-harvest facilities; implementation of livelihood programs; and development of alternative energy sources, among others, as some of the economic development projects.

The same circular prohibits the use of development fund for “personnel salaries and benefits; administrative expenses, traveling expenses; participation in trainings, seminars, or conventions; and the purchase of office equipment and furniture, and motor vehicles.”

In the town of Garcia-Hernandez, COA noted that the municipality had appropriated the total amount of ₱14,333,331.00 out of its IRA of₱71,249,659.00, or 20% thereof for the implementation of priority development projects during thecalendar year 2015 as recommended by the Municipal Development Council and approved by the Sangguniang Bayan.

The COA report revealed that out of the total appropriated amount of₱14,333,331.00 development fund, only ₱ 3,624,117.60 was obligated for the implementation of prioritydevelopment projects during the year, leaving an unutilized appropriation of ₱ 10,709,213.40at the end of the year (2016).

“Non-implementation on the part of management of these priority development projectsduring the budget year the 20% DF was appropriated had unnecessarily delayed the delivery ofthe socio-economic and environmental development benefits to the constituents of themunicipality and at the same time defeated the purpose for which the fund was appropriated,” COA said in the report.

The agency called on Garcia-Hernandez LGU to “comply with the provisions of Section 287 of theLocal Government Code of 1991 and the related DILG-DBM Joint MemorandumCircular No. 2011-1 on the prompt and full utilization of the 20% Development Fund forthe implementation of priority development projects in order to optimally attain the socio-economic and environmental development of the municipality.” (Ligalig Mike Ortega)

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