Mayor says critics ‘misunderstood’ COA report

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog said his critics may have misunderstood the audit findings on City Hall expenses on cakes, lechon and flowers for the dead under the representation expenses item of the 2010 budget.

Mabilog said the Commission on Audit (COA) Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) No. 11-001 issued on January 4, 2011 cited that the questioned expenses should have been classified in the discretionary expenses item, not representation expenses.

Mabilog said COA has cleared the Iloilo City Budget Office and the City Accountant in a recent exit conference on the issue.

The AOM findings, which was later detailed in the 2010 Annual Audit Report on City Hall finances, said “some expenditures which should have been classified as Other Maintenance and Operating Expenses, Extra Ordinary Expenses (Discretionary Expenses), Traveling Expenses and Office Supplies Expenses were disbursed as Representation Expenses.”

“The claims of ‘overpricing’ was a technical matter that has been corrected by the Iloilo City Budget Office and the City Accountant that submitted tier comments 15 days after receiving the AOM as mandated. It is best if our critics approach City Budget Officer Ninda D. Atinado and City Accountant Michelle O. Lopez so that they could get a clear picture of what transpired,” the mayor said.

Mabilog said the audit findings did not say that the expenditures were illegal but “based on the review of the budget registries, this may have been done due to insufficiency of appropriations for the other accounts.”

“It was a case of what should have been for A went to B,” Mabilog said.

The audit agency noted in its findings that 94.62% of the P3.822 million expenditures for 2010 “did not fall within the purview of official meetings/conferences/entertainments” contrary to updated account descriptions of the New Government Accounting System.

The COA said the switch of expenditure items resulted in “inappropriate use of the fund and overstatement of Representation Expenses in the financial statements.”

Among the controversial expenses cited by COA include:

P78,000 worth of lechon;

P531,900 worth of flowers for the bereaved families of the dead;

P106,690 worth of cakes for senior citizens;

22 pieces of Hablon shawls and reimbursement of a bamboo folding chair worth P2,500;

payment for 50 pieces of business cards, 427 pieces of posters and P44,950 worth of poster calendars.

Mabilog did not belabor whether it was morally right for a city mayor to spend scarce public resources for such expenses.


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