I was happy to see a photo story printed in another local daily a few days ago. That paper had a picture of two men standing inside a long line of culverts. The fact that persons could stand inside the culverts demonstrated how large those concrete materials were. They probably had a diameter of about six feet.
While I always consider people as important, I was not as interested in the men who were photographed than in the culverts themselves. Yes, I was very glad to note that another news medium observed the waste. When the paper asked if the culverts were not misplaced and therefore wasted, it hit the proverbial nail right on its head.
Several months ago, I wrote in this column what I observed. Somewhere in the north reclamation area, not far from a large mall, a property apparently owned by and belonging to Cebu City, had been enclosed. The city government used hundreds of large culverts as fence! Of course, the obvious hit me hard. Culverts are materials not made for fencing purposes. Those materials could have only been fabricated for use as part of the drainage system but never as fence.
What I then wrote extensively about was the very same photographic subject of that paper. I claimed in my article, (and this, probably, was the direction by the other paper), that someone, if not a cabal of them, must be held accountable for ordering the fabrication of those culverts and subsequently wasting them by such glaring misuse. Considering the size, those materials must have cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of public funds.
To recall, I concluded my write up with a call for the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation into this obvious wastage of people’s money. It was criminal and not plain administrative oversight, for responsible officials to order the production of culverts and using them for an entirely different and utterly unintended purpose.
An inquiry by the COA and the Ombudsman, either separately pursued or jointly done, will unravel what office initially made the purchase request for those culverts. Without doubt, the first step into this form of plunder was taken by the head of that office who wrote the justification for the acquisition of the materials. His signature originated the process culminating into the city’s buying the said culverts. Somewhere, he identified the project or projects for which use those materials were intended.
The responsibility does not end there, I am afraid. Not only shall the office head who signed the purchase request be held accountable. Were his request left without action, no outlay would have followed. To push forward his purchase request, he was joined by the approving authority who gave the go signal. They confederated in the eventual useless expenditure.
Liability falls equally upon him who directed that the culverts were to be used as fence. That was a form of technical malversation. He knew that it was wrong to use government property for some totally strange application.
It is common knowledge that public funds are not enough to deliver the desired basic services, such that it aggravates the situation when meager funds are misused. Really, it is wrong for leaders to commit callous acts amounting to waste. The COA and the Ombudsman, which are both manned by competent and dedicated personnel, should work to restore the faith of the citizenry in the fiscal fidelity of their leaders. This objective can be attained if COA and Ombudsman run after leaders who are responsible for this utter wastefulness we are writing about.
A prosecution is in order. The task is made a little easier to do considering the presence of expensive culverts misused as fence. Indeed, if earnest efforts are undertaken soon, the COA and Ombudsman, will have shown the meaning of political will.
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