POC president Ricky Vargas (middle) with chairman Rep. Bambol Tolentino (right) and secretary-general Patrick Gregorio.
POC addresses financial mess
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The POC Executive Board was convened for a meeting at the POC office in Pasig the other day but, falling short of a quorum by one member, couldn’t file a resolution to hold certain individuals accountable for its financial mess even as POC president Ricky Vargas made it clear that those responsible for the irregularities will be answerable.

The ugly mess was exposed when Olympic Solidarity director Pere Miro sent a letter to the POC last June noting an unliquidated account amounting to $59,963 broken down to a disbursement for an organization study of $22,500 in 2013, an expense for an advanced course of $1,463 in 2016 and assistance for logistics and transportation in relation to the 2016 Rio Olympics of $36,000.

Miro said the POC “failed to satisfactorily submit the technical and financial reports within the given deadline.” As a result, Olympic Solidarity is requiring the POC to return the unliquidated amount in the spirit of “good governance and transparency of the Olympic Movement.”

Vargas has asked Olympic Solidarity, which is affiliated to the IOC, for an extension of the deadline to reimburse the amount while he conducts an investigation of where the funds went. He has contracted SGV to conduct an external audit to trace the money trail. 

“I am embarrassed by our inability to settle this issue,” said Vargas. “This does not speak well of the POC with the IOC and if we need to return the money, I am inclined to do so but in fairness to the POC, there should be accountability for this mess. We are using POC money to pay for this mismanagement and by so doing, we should report this to the General Assembly and the Executive Board. We need to be transparent.”

Those who attended the Executive Board meeting were Vargas, chairman Rep. Bambol Tolentino, secretary-general Patrick Gregorio, second vice president Tony Tamayo and members Cynthia Carrion and Robert Mananquil. Also attending were Francisco Elizalde, athletes’ representative Nikko Huelgas, deputy secretary-general Karen Caballero and Atty. Al Agra. Sending regrets were first vice president Joey Romasanta, auditor Jonne Go and members Rep. Butch Pichay and Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski. Absent were former president Jose Cojuangco, Jr. and treasurer Julian Camacho.

The critical amount is $23,963 because the liquidation for the $36,000 Rio Olympic subsidy is not immediately due. Apparently, the POC’s financial system is in disarray and Vargas is determined to fix it particularly as the organization was recently given P50 Million by the San Miguel Group, P20 Million by the MVP Sports Foundation and P6 Million by the PBA. Whoever was in charge of finance in the past must be accountable for the mess and certainly, will not be entrusted the responsibility of managing the fresh endowment of P76 Million.

There is talk that those responsible for the mess are trying to muster a vote of no-confidence on the newly-elected Vargas administration. But it may be difficult to generate support for an anti-Vargas campaign considering the Philippine contingent’s creditable performance in the recent Asian Games with a harvest of four gold, two silver and 15 bronze medals. Apparently, the unrest isn’t traced to the shallow reason that certain NSA officials were not given royal treatment in Jakarta with scaled-down flight and hotel arrangements. The real reason for a brewing coup is the officials involved in the mess are hoping to skirt accountability.

Vargas is out to clean up the mess so he can start with a clean slate and it all begins with financial transparency. In the Olympic Council of Asia, it is widely known that the POC has unliquidated accounts with Olympic Solidarity. Because of the pending obligation, the POC will be restrained from receiving Solidarity support which amounts to $53 Million for Asia alone. The Solidarity fund is earmarked for developing elite athletes, creating programs towards the promotion of Olympic values, training of coaches and strengthening of organizational infrastructure.

RICKY VARGAS
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