Gov. Roel Degamo has lamented the action of the Commission on Audit of making public a report before informing the parties involved.
The Governor was referring to the COA report reiterating its earlier findings in declaring him and members of the Provincial Bids & Awards Committee personally liable for the disallowance on the advance payments to various contractors of the province of Negros Oriental in the total amount of P149,051,551.60.
In a press conference Monday at the Provincial Capitol, Degamo deplored the publication of the news story about the COA report in some media outlets, including the MetroPost, saying that he and the other parties concerned had yet to receive their copy.
“I’m not blaming the media,” Degamo repeatedly stressed, “I am just expressing that I feel it is unfair because I was not interviewed to explain my side,” the Governor said.
Provincial Administrator Richard Enojo for his part, said they initially thought of not giving [the news story] any value because they had yet to receive their copies of the report. “But we realized that it had been circulated already and this has poisoned a lot of minds.”
Provincial Engr. Franco Alpuerto, in the same press conference, said the only copy they obtained was a copy of the COA report that was handcarried by the driver of Rep. George Arnaiz to the local office of the Commission on Audit.
In a decision dated 11 February 2014 but which was released 13 May 2014, COA Region 7 Director Alicia M. Malquisto denied the appeal made by Degamo and the BAC members, and affirmed the earlier ruling made last year.
Named respondents in the Notices of Disallowance aside from Degamo were Provincial Accountant Teodorico G. Reyes, Provincial Treasurer and BAC Chairman Danilo C. Mendez, Assistant Provincial Administrator Josefina C. Columna, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Dante G. Domingo, Provincial Budget Officer Marichu A. Alpuerto, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan Secretary Atty. Geoffrey P. Villahermosa.
The case stemmed from the respondents’ disbursement of calamity funds to undertake river control and rechanneling, as well as the construction of dikes in several rivers in Negros Oriental, which were damaged by tropical storm Sendong.
The Province disbursed the amount despite the withdrawal by the Department of Budget & Management of the Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO) because “the fund release did not comply with existing guidelines on large-scale fund releases for infrastructure projects.”
The COA also released an Inspection Report dated March 19, 2014, which showed that five projects being undertaken under this fund were way above the COA Cost and “considered excessive.”
Enojo defended the actions of the Provincial government in releasing the funds, and in relation to the allegations of an overprice.
Enojo said they did not return the money to the national treasury despite the issuance of a Negative SARO by Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos because Relampagos could not present any proof that he was acting in the President’s behalf.
Enojo said the Governor only requested for funding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Sendong. “If you request for funding, it cannot be granted unless there is a cost estimate, and a program of work.
“All these requests were submitted to the Office of the President, who instructed the Regional Office of the Department of Public Works & Highways, and the Office of Civil Defense to validate the request for funding, to include the project estimate,” Enojo continued.
Summing up the issue, Degamo said this is the same story that is just being rehashed. “If the President still thinks the same way about this, he is misinformed. That is why the people voted overwhelmingly for me because they believed that I spent this money judiciously.”