Thursday, January 29, 2009

Advancing the cause, advancing the cash

The practice of extending cash advances to officials and employees of government is one disease difficult to cure. It is recurring.

It is worse when cash advances are not liquidated. Un-liquidated cash advances put a government office at risk. It is accountability hanging; a corrupt act.

Advancing cash to officials and employees is not illegal—if it is liquidated. If not, it is a crime. And a crime should be punished.

Officials and employees who incur cash advances may reason that as public servants they are merely doing their duty in advancing the cause of the people and serving the public good. Hence, they need the cash—and government should advance it. I have heard this twisted logic many times.

The answer is: “Yes, you are doing your official duty. Yes, you may be extended cash advance. But, no, you may not leave it un-liquidated. Tell the people how you spent it and what for.”

I make this observation because it has come to my attention that this cancer of cash advances has infected the provincial capitol of Gov. Natalio Beltran III. It is now malignant.

This is not to say that the disease has become acute under the governor, or that prior to his assumption of the governor’s seat, the capitol was ‘clean’ of cash advances.

No, in fact, we can say that before Beltran came from the backwaters of the kingdom of Sulayman to become rajah of Romblon, the capitol was already showing symptoms of the disease.

In short, the young governor arrived at a time when cash advancers in the capitol were already plying their nefarious trade—or corrupt practice—of NOT liquidating their cash advances.

These observations are not mine. These are the findings of the Commission on Audit, the praetorian guard of public finances, in its 2007 Annual Audit Report on the Province of Romblon.

In the report, the COA wrote:

“The non-liquidation of the outstanding cash advances of P15,222,451.74 as of year-end 2007 unnecessarily tie(s) up the operating funds of the agency and thus, operations may be hampered, obligations may not be met jeopardizing the interests of the constituent.”

Never mind the COA’s tortured syntax. They are accountants, not writers. But mind what it says, which was to indict the provincial government for jeopardizing the people’s interest.

I don’t know if the governor understood what this means. I think his assistants should explain it to him, because it is already 2009 and the COA is due to issue once again its Annual Audit Report. I am waiting for that to see if something has changed, like, if the cash advances increased or decreased.

Now, the details, as the COA observed.

Of the P15.222 million in un-liquidated cash advances, P10.324 million have been outstanding for over two years, meaning the bulk of the amount were advanced during the time of the late governor Perpetuo Ylagan who, for reasons that he carried to his grave, did not press the cash advancers to liquidate their cash advances. Beltran, thus, inherited the problem.

If the cash advances have not been liquidated in two years, the COA doubts if these were used for the intended purpose.

Simply put, the COA was saying: “OK, two years in the running and you have not accounted for the cash advances. You did not use it. You might have burned it.”

Or, if I may add: “You might have kept it for yourself.” See?

And this is what’s funny. The balance sheet of the provincial capitol at the end of 2007 reflected the cash advances as assets.

Hello? I am not an accountant (I cry when I see a number problem), but this accounting practice of the provincial government of treating advances as assets defies logic, if not common sense. The COA said the cash advances have been expended and so they are not assets.

Almost half a million pesos, or P403,509.81, of the outstanding cash advances were granted to employees already separated from the service, but remains in the books of accounts.

Susmariosep. Why were these employees allowed to leave in the first place without settling their accountabilities? Who signed their clearances?

The COA reported that the provincial government did not report (that word, report!) P2.366 million in cash advances of SDOs (special disbursing officers) as soon as the purpose of the cash advances was served. And hear this. The SDOs liquidated their cash advances beyond the prescription period, a violation of government accounting rules and regulations. Perhaps, they were buying time to cook up some magic?

The COA also noted that 112 officials and employees have incurred cash advances of P639,379.97 for travel. Oh, no!

Perhaps, this is the reason why on any given regular working day, an usisero quipped, the provincial capitol seems empty. Many of the officials and employees could be on travel. By what means and to where? Did they fly first class? Were the travels official?

Who cares? As long as they traveled with a cash advance, they can attend any town or barangay fiesta, visit their farms, or even act as godparents in the christening of a neighbor’s dog. What are they in power for, anyway?

Now, the list of officials and employees who have the largest amount of cash advances as of December 2007. Lights on. Drum roll, please.

June B. Recon, Prov’l Social Welfare Dev’t Officer P4,745,750.00
Ruby F. Fababeir, Provincial Treasurer P3,810,613.00
Richard Lozada, Supply Officer II P1,857,575.00
Neva F. Deocadas, Cashier III P 546,804.65
Ruben Monzales, Disbursing Officer P 214,532.02

In addition to the above, the COA lists six (6) unnamed regional disbursing officers with a total cash advance of P89,109.29; nine (9) special disbursing officers who had a total of P2,048,791.29; and two (2) Department of Education personnel with P1,112,650 in un-liquidated cash advances. Who are they?

Monzales, the COA foot-noted, absconded in 1996. Meaning, he has run away with his cash advance—unliquidated. If by chance you see this man loafing around the province, say, for example, in a cockfight arena, I urge you to seize him, bind him, and ship him to the capitol.

As to the rest, may God forgive them for they know not what they are not liquidating.

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