COA calls out Baguio LGU over COVID-19 spending

Artemio Dumlao, Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Baguio City government over its questionable cash advances in connection with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its 2020 report, the audit body noted that P61 million of the city’s P158.171 million budget for COVID-19 response was released in the form of cash advances.

The COA said there were no supporting documents to show the cost estimates, description of the items and required quantity to be purchased, which contravened the guidelines for emergency procurement under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The agency noted that while P56.4 million of the P61 million cash advances was supposedly used to procure relief goods and medical supplies, some suppliers issued only collection receipts instead of sales invoices “casting doubt as to whether or not the payment was actually received.”

The COA said payments in cash instead of checks or automatic debit to account were made, which is prescribed under the law and Government Accounting Manual for local government units (LGUs).

For its part, the city government admitted that certain accounting and auditing rules and regulations were” not strictly implemented due to the extraordinary circumstance brought by COVID-19.”

It assured the audit body that its procedural lapses were not intentionally committed to perpetuate fraud.

Eugenio Buyucan of the city government’s general services office said scarcity of commodities during the enhanced community quarantine prompted them to immediately purchase what is available from suppliers operating at the time.

In the same audit report, the COA said the Baguio City government failed to properly record the receipt and utilization of cash and in-kind donations it received from several organizations and government agencies in support of its pandemic response.

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