Gov. Roel Degamo disclosed that his office awaits the Commission on Audit’s report if any, about alleged overpricing of some P23-Million in five of 11 projects covered by the controversial Calamity fund of P480-million. He also wants to know how P149-million was disallowed by COA out of the said initial fund release. He claims he never received any official copy of such report.
The governor asked why media knew about the report ahead which was published by a local paper not the CHRONICLE. It contained such COA’s own estimates as against that of the contractors. Gov Degamo said as the main party concerned, he, as governor, has not yet even received the official copy of such “cost review sheet of COA” containing reports of alleged massive overpricing.
But the COA claims that the “cost review sheet” was an internal process which was yet partially done and not intended for the governor because it would eventually end anyway, with the total disallowance liability of P480M.
The COA sees the individual overpricing per project as less significant compared to the total disallowed calamity fund of P480-M on which the agency is focusing.
Yet under the principle of “Quantum Meruit,” government will still consider as paid, those amounts which were indeed poured by the contractor into the projects. Only the disallowed portions and the overpriced amounts were sought to be recovered by the DBM.
The governor and his 7 co-appellants, have already filed their Petition for Review with the COA national office, and soon a certiorari case before the Supreme Court.
Their main defense is good faith. The governor’s camp said everything was legal, above and approved by the President and the National Risk Reduction Council of which the DPWH is a member. In fact the DBM ordered the release of the P480-M in the account of the provincial government of Negros Oriental and deposited with the DBP. He claims politics caused the P480-M’s sudden withdrawal.
But provincial administrator Atty Richard Enojo confirmed during a press conference Monday with Gov Degamo and Provincial Engr. Franco Alpuerto that “the P480-M was already all spent, “kulang pa gani,” he added.
But DBM contends that it has always the power to recall and issue a negative SARO on projects all over with legal basis. This includes the P480-M before it was bidden and awarded. Thus, when the money was used later for the project (P480-M) it was effectively no longer appropriated for such purpose, and therefore, to disburse such amount for something other than it was intended for, is illegal and tantamounts to bad faith.
Another evidence of DBM is the President’s subsequent statement in Dumaguete who said in his plaza speech saying in context that : what we expected was the money to be returned, but what we got was a legal case against us.
Per COA guidelines, the Solicitor General will shortly file a collection case of P480-M against all responsible officers led by the governor in this historic disallowance of a whole multi million project which happened for the first time in Negros Oriental.
The governor has 60 work days to file an answer (since the first leg was filed last year) to be interrupted only when the petition is in transit to the respective parties and to resume the countdown on the date of the next hearing.
The Commission on Audit named the respondents-appellants in the disallowance case No. 14-004 worth P480-million as follows:
Roel Degamo, provincial governor; Teodorico Reyes, provincial accountant; Danilo Mendez, provincial treasurer and BAC chairman; Josefina Columna, assistant provincial administrator and BAC member; Dr Dante Domingo, provincial health officer and BAC member; Marichu Alpuerto, provincial budget officer and BAC member; Atty Geoffrey Villahermosa, sangguniang panlalawigan secretary and BAC member of the province of Negros Oriental.
The COA appellees are: Syliva Almazan and Atty Charlita Leopoldo in their capacities as audit team leader and supervising auditor of then Team 1 audit group of Negros Oriental COA Region 7.
The P480-million is just half of the P960-million approved by DBM for typhoon devastated areas of Negros Oriental.
The big problem is that this P480-M was issued a negative SARO and was ordered by DBM returned because it was DBM’s lapse in not following an old rule that the DPWH was always tasked to implement projects over P10-million.
Worse came because the provincial government did not return the money to DBM but instead bid, and awarded all P480-M to winning bidders. Of such amount, COA disallowed P149-M worth of job items in the same 11 projects.
As a result COA issued an administrative order and decision charging the said amount to the personal accounts of the governor and six of his bids and awards committee members.
COA stated that at the time the P480M was bidden and awarded, the provincial government was no longer the trustee of such money inside DBP Cebu in the name of the LGU of NegOr, because it was earlier withdrawn thru a negative SARO.