In an annual audit report posted on its website yesterday, the COA branded as excessive and injudicious the 14 foreign trips made by Tourism Promotions Board former chief Cesar Montano last year during his stint as chief operating officer of the TPB.
Geremy Pintolo/File
COA flags ex-TPB head’s excessive trips
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - July 27, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged a total of P32.954 million in disbursements of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) in 2017, including those for the foreign trips of its former chief Cesar Montano as well as his private secretary and executive assistants.

In an annual audit report posted on its website yesterday, the COA branded as excessive and injudicious the 14 foreign trips made by Montano last year during his stint as chief operating officer of the TPB.

The TPB is the promotions and marketing arm of the Department of Tourism.

COA records showed that Montano’s trips, covering 91 days, had cost the agency P2.277 million. 

The COA said that on his trips to Russia, Canada and the United States, Montano had availed himself of business class air tickets worth P594,000 in violation of Section 7 of Executive Order 298, which states that official transportation shall be restricted to economy class unless otherwise authorized by the President.

Furthermore, the COA said Montano, an actor-turned-government official, had also brought with him on 11 out of his 14 foreign trips his private secretary and executive assistant that resulted in additional “excessive and unnecessary” expenses to the government amounting to P2.995 million.

Also flagged by the audit body were the 16 foreign travels of TPB officer-in-charge for international promotions – who was not identified – amounting to P1.958 million. The expenses covered 113 days for his trips in Asia, Europe, Australia and North America.

The audit body said that while it recognizes the TPB officials’ need to travel abroad to market Philippine tourism, austerity measures must always be observed to minimize the cost to the government.

“Travel abroad for more than 90 days and more than 12 times in a year of an officer or employee is deemed excessive and may have adverse repercussions on the management of the affairs of the government corporation,” the COA said.

Furthermore, the COA said Montano, his private secretary and executive assistant have also yet to return P66,620 in air fare for their scheduled travel to Japan in June 2017, which did not push through.

Montano resigned as TPB chief in May of this year, following the alleged anomalous disbursements of P80 million for the TBP’s Buhay Carinderia food tourism project.

The Buhay Carinderia project aims to promote the country’s street food and local eateries. 

The Buhay Carinderia project was not discussed in the COA’s 2017 annual audit report, but Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, in May, said she had already formally requested COA for a special audit investigation into the project, which she has temporarily suspended. 

Cash advances

Meanwhile, in its annual audit report, the COA also called out the TPB over P5 million in cash advances of its officials and employees, which remain unliquidated as of end 2017.

The COA said the unliquidated amount was comprised of P4.901-million cash advances granted in 2017 and P132,674 advances granted in 2016.

The COA said the TPB officials and employees’ failure to liquidate their cash advances was in violation of Section 5.8 of COA Circular No. 97-002 dated Feb. 10, 1997 which requires that all cash advances shall be fully liquidated at the end of each year, “and that except for petty cash fund, any unexpended balance shall be refunded to the Cashier/Collecting Officer who will issue the necessary official receipt.”

Furthermore, the COA said cash payments totaling P1.42 million were also released to various entertainers in connection with the Tourism Fiesta 2017 event, which was part of the Second Phase of the DOT’s Intramuros Revival project.

The COA said the cash payments were in excess of the P15,000 limitation allowed for petty cash expenses, contrary to Section 4.3.2 of COA Circular No. 97-002. Moreover, state auditors said the TPB did not impose the corresponding withholding taxes on the cash payments to entertainers.

The COA also questioned the payment of P73,500 to a company that supposedly provided a two-day sales and marketing training and executive leadership coaching to TBP officials and employees still in connection with the 2nd Phase of Intramuros Revival Project.

The COA said the disbursement voucher for the payment was not supported by any attendance sheet with necessary signatures of the attendees/participants. 

The COA said a total of P1 million was also allegedly paid to several bands and entertainers for events related to the  2nd Phase of Intramuros Revival, without any public bidding or recommendation from the TBP Bids and Awards Committee in violation of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

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