Audit report links ex-Palawan governor to Ortega slay
- Reinir Padua () - January 28, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines –  Public interest lawyer Harry Roque yesterday presented an audit report on alleged past irregular transactions of the provincial government of Palawan, linking them to the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega.

The special audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) was also attached by Ortega’s group “Kilusan Love Malampaya” in its 2009 letter to former governor Joel Reyes and members of the provincial board.

The group had opposed the provincial government’s plan to secure a loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The report, dated Nov. 21, 2006, specified the transactions of the provincial government from 1999 to 2003.

Roque said the report became the subject of Ortega’s tirades in his radio program.

One of the recommendations of the report was to file appropriate charges against local officials led by Reyes for irregular expenditures and disbursements incurred for cash assistance, grants and donations amounting to about P57 million.

“These were allegedly extended to various constituents and institutions but the result of our validation disclosed that majority… were supported with documents bearing falsified signatures, and that named recipients did not actually receive the cash or items,” said the audit report prepared by lawyers Joel Estolatan, Edna Forto and auditor Nilda Plaras.

The report said the provincial government committed an error in undertaking the construction of seven infrastructure projects that included roads, bridges and buildings in excess in the amount of P9,071,373.55.

The excess was further reduced to P6,768,969.65 after review of additional documents and justification by the provincial government.

“The cost of constructing the 10 Water Supply and Sanitation Facilities Projects implemented by the provincial government of Palawan was found excessive by P52,312,334.45, which was further reduced to P49,187,326.45, after further review/verification,” auditors said.

The audit report also questioned the integrity of transactions on consultancy services contracted by the local government, after official receipts on the payments were not submitted.

“Contractors of infrastructure projects funded out of the proceeds of the P700-million loan from the Landbank were paid directly on a bank-to-bank scheme and the payments were made/recorded through a journal voucher instead of a disbursement voucher, in violation of…Republic Act No. 7160,” the report said.

The auditors also raised doubt on the disbursements by the provincial government after amounts appearing in several official receipts by contractors did not tally with the amount paid by the local government.

“Disbursements totaling P54.12 million for projects paid out of the loan proceeds were not duly supported with official receipts,” the report stated.

“The provincial government is certain to incur loss of at least P2.40 million on account of the guarantee fund it put up to secure the loans granted by the Land Bank of the Philippines to various cooperatives/non-governmental organizations in the province of Palawan, most of which were operating at a loss,” the report said.

Even representation expenses such as lodging, meals and snacks amounting to P34,671,780.70 in 2002 and P16,931,487.63 in 2003 incurred under the Office of the Governor alone were “highly questionable and unconscionable for lack of proper documentation and non-compliance with prescribed procurement requirements,” the COA report said.

Auditors also said these expenses were “unnecessary” and made “not in pursuance of a public purpose.”

They added the provincial government of Palawan was defrauded by at least P314,656.89 through reimbursement of falsified receipts.

“The province incurred more or less P80,000 monthly, or P1 million yearly, for the rental and maintenance of a liaison office in Makati City whose rate is highly excessive and unconscionable,” the report said.

Roque presented the COA report in suggesting that it could have served as the motive to silence Ortega for criticizing the local officials of Palawan on his radio program.

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