Sunday, November 15, 2009

While many Romblomanons were hungry sleeping, Beltran and his ilk were shopping—and reimbursing

Romblon is a land of contrasts: of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’; of the powerful and powerless. It is a province of plenty, but where the majority of the people are clueless as to why they are destitute; while their leaders are heartless in their day-and-night spending orgy.

If you have been following the Romblon Sun, I have detailed in four weekly installments during the past month why this is so.

According to official data, of Romblon’s total 53,720 households (pop. 279,774, Aug. 1, 2007), 41.9 percent, or 22,562 families are poor, living below the poverty threshold.

The National Statistical Coordination Board, or NCSB, says that as of 2007, this threshold was pegged at P6,195.00 per month, or P204.00 per day, meaning each family with an average number of five members should have this amount in combined income to be able to survive.

I did not conjure up these numbers. They are the government’s, to which Rep. Budoy Madrona, Gov. Jojo Beltran, and their ilk belong and are functionaries of. I think now they are ignorant of these numbers. Or they knew, but simply didn’t care.

For here comes the audit report of the COA saying that in 2008, the provincial government, led by the inept Beltran, engaged in shopping and reimbursing the money they used to shop with.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen! Beltran and his ilk ‘shopped’ and ‘reimbursed’ in 2008 while the rest of us were figuring out how to earn the P204.00 daily to be able to buy food, send our children to school, pay our electric and water bills, and purchase medicines for our various ailments.

You don’t believe it? Fine, but here’s a quote from the 2008 COA Annual Audit Report’s Findings and Recommendations:

“. . . 14. Procurement of goods made by the Provincial Government during the year were not again covered by an Annual Procurement Plan (APP) as required under Section 7 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act, thus procured items may not be the actual needs of the agency and results (sic) in uneconomical operations.”

Because of this finding, the COA “reiterated (sic) strongly . . . our previous year’s recommendation that the Local Chief Executive abides (sic) with the provisions of Section 7 of the IRR of RA 9184 and Section 373 of RA 7160 on the preparation of the APP as a basis in the budget preparation. He must also require all heads of offices to submit procurement plans f their supply requirements for the ensuing year to be incorporated in the APP prepared by the General Services Office (GSO).”

“15. Various procurement of goods totalling P12,374,782.51 and P4,266,551.38 were made thru shopping and thru reimbursement (emphasis mine), respectively, instead of thru competitive bidding, in violation of Rule IV, Section 10 of the IRR of the Government Procurement reform Act or Republic Act 9184 . . .”

This practice, according to the COA may not have been most advantageous to the Provincial Government in terms of pricing. It also “cast doubts on the regularity and economy of such procurements”, it added.

Well, who can disagree? The government has set rules for the purchase of even the most basic items that it needs, such as thumb tacks or paper clips. All that the COA said was that these set rules were ignored by the capitol.

For its recommendation, the COA asked the Bids and Awards Committee to “explain and justify the reason/s for its recommendation to award the procurement of goods to listed suppliers through shopping instead of through public bidding.” It also castigated Beltran by saying that as local chief executive, he should have resorted to public bidding as the primary mode of procurement.

Of course, Beltran et al can’t do that. Mawawagit ka inra raket.

To buttress its findings, the COA listed as Annexes ‘O’ and ‘P’ a list of procurement of goods made through shopping and a schedule of procurement made through reimbursement, respectively.

The annexes are interesting for they supply the details.

In Annex ‘O’, the items purchased ranged from typewriters to office and medical supplies to unspecified office equipment and construction materials. The costs varied, but there were only 19 suppliers.

The biggest item was an ‘office equipment’ worth P299,800.00, purchased—‘shopped’ if you will—from Etcetera.Com School and Office Supply on March 3, 2008 with check no. 254607. The smallest item was a typewriter, purchased on April 17, 2008 for P16,850 apiece, or a total of P50,550.00 for three pieces. Two more ‘carina’ typewriters, purchased a month later, were dearer. They cost P24,530.00 each, or a total of P49,060.00

The capitol also purchased two motorcycles from Romblon Hardware & General Merchandise, both on June 20, 2008. One of the motorcycles cost P249,600.00 while the other one cost P166,400.00. A chainsaw, purchased on January 17, 2008, cost the provincial coffers P157,800; a rolling track bin fetched P107,000.00; an Arrowroot flour machine, P169,800.00.

The capitol also bought through shopping five airconditioners at a whopping P42,000 apiece. It must be very cold now in the kapitolyo because of the very expensive airconditioners.

Work at the capitol really must be hard, too, and our officials and employees really must be working harder, for the records tell us that in 2008, the capitol paid two suppliers, GSP Canteen & Catering Services and Sato Dizen, a total of P409,900 in catering services. Is this only for food, or it included the bill for toothpick? Just asking.

As to procurement through reimbursement, Gov. Beltran accounted for the bulk in 2008. Of the total of P4,266,551.38, he reimbursed P2,391,315.60.

He has not only assumed the role of governor, but of purchasing officer as well, himself taking time out from the capitol to buy spare parts worth P610,018.59; office supplies worth P569,086.75; medical equipment worth P316,250.00; and tarpaulin for P339,000.00.

Not content, he whined and dined we-don’t-know-who, but we are sure they are not your ordinary Romblomanons. For food, he reimbursed PP376,960.26. He even bought livestock and had the amount of P180,000.00 reimbursed. Whew!

Other Beltran underlings who reimbursed purchases in 2008 are (dyaran . . . drum roll please) Oscar Vicente Ylagan, Anthony Rugas, Raylin C. Famatiga, Vicente Ferdinand Peñaflor, Emilio Beltran Jr., Jay M. Garcia, Antonio Mindoro, Estanislao Famatiga, Helen Arriola, Percival Ferrer, Estelina Oñas, Gerry Tansiongco, Evelyn Formilleza, Teodicto Martinet, Sarah Jane Bantang, and Leila Arboleda.

I guess that’s all, folks, for today. This lesson on “Government Purchasing: How to do it by Shopping and Reimbursement” will have a sequel. Be prepared for the written exam on May 10, 2010. Jojo and classmates, study your lessons well. You might be asked to recite.

Email me at, or text me at 0917 623 8842. The first letter-writer or texter will be allowed reimbursement for your text or internet load. No audit. No questions asked.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

2008 COA report: P1.5M fiberglass patrol boat disappeared . . . from the books

As soon as my first piece on the 2008 COA annual audit report got posted in the online forum , in, in the website, and in my Facebook account, readers’ reaction came in torrents, indicating huge interest in the contents of the report. Some were requesting for a copy, others egging me on to bare its contents all at once.

I hit a gold mine in the report, but I am not hoarding it, unlike some thieves in the corridors of power who, even while masquerading in public as generous souls, are already entertaining dark and sinister thoughts of keeping the find for themselves and themselves alone. Inggit at tulo laway lang kayo, they would say.

As I said, the report is so voluminous that I intend to parcel out its details in morsels. If you are ready, then I am.

The report, by the way, had found its way into four offices: a copy each went to the regional directors of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Budget and Management, and Department of Finance’s Bureau of Local Government Finance.

A fourth copy is now in the interstices of the office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, but I doubt if any member, say, like Gil Moreno, or Nelson Lim, or Pat Manalon, has seen, or read, or even understood the 200-page report. They must be very busy campaigning for re-election.

The audit report say that in 2008, the province of Romblon earned a total of P357,877, 264.25 and spent P322,887,494.83, out of the total appropriation of P381,626,760.42.

I quoted these figures because a backdrop is needed. You see, government agencies are allowed to spend people’s money only when there is an appropriation. In local government operations, an appropriation, or the authority to spend, is approved by the local Sanggunian.

In Romblon’s case, the authorized appropriation was P381.626 million, but for a while, look NOT at the total spending, but at the total earnings of P357.877 million, which is much less. What does this mean? This means that we are appropriating more than what we could earn. This, in most instances, leads to what you call deficit-spending. Sounds familiar?

The heart of the COA audit report was its findings. For Romblon, the COA noted several adverse discoveries in the financial transactions in 2008. I shall begin with the most significant. The parenthetical notations are my comments.

1. In 2008, Romblon submitted very late its monthly, quarterly, and year-end financial reports to State auditors contrary to regulations. This prevented the COA from perusing and preparing its audit reports on time.

(Anything new? Romblon, the capitol, is, as always, very late, or some of its officials and employees have arthritic hands like me that they can’t write reports.)

2. The COA could not determine the validity and correctness of the capitol’s collections and disbursements, or use, of the Special Education Fund because it did not submit any report, such as deposit slips, or payrolls. The amount involved was P4.180 million in collections and P2.740 million in expenses.

(Ibinakay it mga school bag para sa mga Estudyante nak di-pintura it uda it gobernador?)

3. The capitol did not reconcile, or delayed its reconciliation of, its financial records with bank records, so the COA could not ascertain the accuracy of the province’s bank balance of P63.542 million. The COA said bank and book balances have a difference of P10.082 million, while the Accounting and Treasury books have a difference of P306,019.43.

(Oops. Sorry, COA. If the capitol reconciles regularly its book and bank records and its Accounting and Treasury officials periodically do their reconciliation work, then, the governor will have very little room to play with the numbers. In accounting parlance, the usual justification when this ‘anomaly’ is discovered is to tell the auditors that the money is ‘in transit’. ‘In transit’ to where? To the bank or to the pockets?)

4. The province’s Plant, Property and Equipment, valued at P144.205 million and inventory items worth P14.373 million could not be ascertained if true or existing. The COA said the reason is because the capitol has not done any periodic inventory.

(True and existing, I would say . . . in the books and in the imagination, but not in the true sense of the word. This is a perennial COA observation. Last year, the COA asked the capitol to do an inventory, but it seems the property officer and the General Services Office, led by the inexhaustible Jojo Rugas, are still learning to do the math, while receiving fat bonuses and productivity incentives. That’s all they know to inventory, it seems.)

5. The fiberglass patrol boat donated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources valued at P1.5 million has disappeared—from the books. It has not been recorded. The official who received the record of the donation has not submitted the document to the Provincial Accountant.

(Where is the patrol boat? Naghahakot it banye-banyerang isra nak suhoy it illegal fishermen agor indi gi rakpon? Where is the invoice of the donation? Kinumos ag ipina-on sa pagpangisra? Usec Bernie, did you facilitate the donation? Just asking.)

6. The COA found out that the capitol charged to principal amortization its interest payment of P8.760 million, because there is no provision for interest payment in the provincial appropriation.

(Gov. Jojo B., time to change accountants? Calling on the majority members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Didn’t you know that Romblon has a huge loan with the Land Bank of the Philippines, courtesy of our dearly beloved congressman Budoy M, for which we are paying till death do us part? Why didn’t you appropriate an amount for interest thereof, so Gov. Jojo B’s accountant will not charge it to the principal amortization? I request SP Nelson Lim to answer this question. SP Nelson is recognized. SP Gil Moreno will second. Drum roll. Gavel bangs.)

Readers, more to come.

In the meantime, let me not forget to inform you that the above findings—whether omission, commission, violation, malfeasance, or, as they say, plain stupidity, were violations or contrary to existing rules, laws and regulations of the government, according to the COA.

In my book, they are also highly unethical, which is the highest form of transgression.

That our concerned officials and employees can so grossly and continually go against the law is, I will say it again, an indication of the quality of our leaders and public servants. It is also an indictment of our politics as a people, so anything wrong that our officials commit gets back to us in equal measure because it is us who voted them into office in the first place.

Now, excuse me while I go to the confessional. Text me at 0917 623 8842, or e-mail me later at after I have washed my hands.

Monday, November 2, 2009

COA’s 2008 annual audit of Romblon bares more Beltran’s ‘sins’

In January this year, I wrote about the findings of the Commission on Audit about the financial irregularities in the capitol in 2007, very particularly about the un-liquidated cash advances of officials and employees which to this day have not been liquidated.
My aim then as now was to inform the public that while Beltran reigns as governor, no amount of “pa-cute” can hide the fact that he and some of his officials and employees are spending people’s money as if the Central Bank will close its printing presses tomorrow, and in the process putting at risk and compromising public interest. Kalolooy rabono ka Romblon.

Well, well. What have I got?

Three weeks ago, a reader, Vonn Fadri, circulated a copy of the COA’s 2008 annual audit report on Romblon. I deferred writing about it because I have been so busy. I promised Mr. Fadri, however, that I will devour the report, as soon as I have time.

I have now, so brace your selves for COA’s damning revelations on how Jojo “Sinturon Rayagan” Beltran, with the aid of his band of fawning officials and employees, went about raping Romblon’s treasury in 2008.

Before I proceed further, however, let me warn the reader that the COA audit report does not indict Gov. Beltran or the provincial government singly or collectively. It does not pronounce him guilty. That’s for the court to decide. It also does not compel him to abide with the law, the COA having no police or coercive power.

The audit report merely reports the facts on the province’s financial transactions in the past year and recommends—in fact, “requests”—corrective steps to set the transactions and records aright and according to the law.

The copy of the report I have on file is 200 pages long, in portable document format, or PDF, and with several annexes. It contains very detailed findings and sober recommendations.

Observers interested in politics and governance will find the report useful. In fact, those who in the 2010 elections would like to raise issues for or against any candidate must read the report, for it clearly instructs political leaders on good conduct and behavior once they are in public office. Alas, Gov. Beltran as the leader of Romblon, could be so hard-headed, or doesn’t read at all, or doesn’t understand what the COA is there for, that he has continually thumbed his nose on the report’s recommendations.

The length of the document prevents me from writing just one short column, so I will take the liberty of writing about it in installment. And since Wilig-wilig, Liong-liong appears just once every week, I reckon it would take me a month or two to comment on the report. I, therefore, hope that Romblon Sun readers will not tire out in reading my commentaries on the audit report.

The COA 2008 annual audit report was written by Concepcion N. Caldit, audit team leader. She was assisted by Geraldine Gutierrez and Rockfeller Merida, audit team members. Emmie Mendoza, supervising auditor, oversaw its preparation.

In a letter to Gov. Beltran on May 20, 2009, COA regional director Reynaldo Jamoralin said the audit was made “to ascertain the propriety of financial transactions, compliance with prescribed rules, and the economical, efficient, and effective utilization of resources.”

“It was also made to ascertain the accuracy of financial records and reports, as well as the fairness of presentation of financial statements,” Jamoralin, in his letter, added.

Just to tickle your imagination, the COA report lists down Rep. Budoy Madrona as one of those having cash advances which up to this day has not been liquidated. And just to be fair and square, opposition member of the SP Benjamin Irao, Jr. and Vice Governor Alice Fetalvero have also cash advances, but their advances pale in comparison with the financial accountabilities of Jojo Beltran and some of his pawns. Beltran, in fact, according to the report, had checks issued in his name several times in 2008. I admire this boy’s fast learning curve.

Here’s another tickler. The COA found out that the capitol paid its officials and employees P16,542,000.00 in so-called performance bonuses, extra cash gifts and rice allowances in 2008 in violation of Section 4(l) of PD 1445. The amount paid, the COA observed, exceeded the salary ceiling set under RA 6758.

The COA report contains many more adverse findings that “shocked and awed” me, to use George Bush’s strategy in Iraq. I will mention these findings one by one in my succeeding columns.

Based on the COA’s findings, the capitol dismally failed the tests based on three criteria—propriety, compliance, and economy. It also failed on the criterion of accuracy of financial records and fairness of presentation of financial statements. Because of this failure, the COA issued a qualified audit opinion for Romblon in 2008.

Being a non-accountant not familiar with the ways and workings of auditing, I can only follow what the COA said in the report. As a writer cum social investigator, however, I can smell anomalies miles away by reading printed texts and by poring over reports.

Thus, I will also issue an opinion, albeit unofficial: The audit report and its findings bare the inner demons of Beltran’s hypocrisy, greed, and corruption. It brings to light and for our self-examination and judgment not only Beltran’s “unfitness” for the post he now so immensely enjoys, but also our decision in 2007 to elect him to power.

Read the report and tell me I am wrong. Now, if you want a copy of the report, text me your e-mail address at 0917 623 8842. Forgive me, I don’t answer text messages. My fingers are arthritic. But I do respond to e-mails.