No charges, no apology
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — POC spokesman and communications director Ed Picson said yesterday he was surprised when POC treasurer Julian Camacho asked for an apology in a radio interview because of insinuations of financial irregularities during his watch in the previous administration under former president Jose Cojuangco, Jr.

“No one was accused or charged of anything so there’s nothing to apologize for,” said Picson. “What upset (POC president) Mr. (Ricky) Vargas was Olympic Solidarity director Pere Miro’s letter to the POC last June citing an unliquidated account amounting to $59,963. Of that total, $22,500 was remitted to the POC in 2013 or five years ago. Mr. Miro explained that since the period of liquidation or explanation had lapsed, the only option was for the POC to pay up. Who wouldn’t be upset with that kind of letter?”

Even worse was the POC’s suspension to receive assistance from Olympic Solidarity which earmarks $53 Million a year for Asia alone because of the outstanding accountability. 

After receiving Miro’s letter, Vargas requested for an extension to study the matter because he had just been elected POC president and needed time to investigate the account. “The first thing Mr. Vargas wanted to find out was how much was left in the POC’s dollar bank account,” said Picson. “Then, he wanted to find out where the money came from, for what purpose it was supposed to be used and if there were disbursements. The big chunk of the amount or $36,000 was for expenses of POC officials in terms of per diems and air fares in relation to the 2016 Rio Olympics.”

In a POC Executive Board meeting last week, Camacho submitted an SGV audit of the POC’s books. Picson confirmed there was more than enough cash in the POC’s dollar bank account to pay back Olympic Solidarity for the $22,500 advance. There was also an unliquidated portion of $1,463 from a $10,000 release to an NSA. As for the liquidation of the $36,000, the transmission was delayed because of new on-line procedures stipulated by Olympic Solidarity. Philippine delegation chef de mission to the 2016 Olympics Joey Romasanta has attended to the liquidation.

The $22,500 was for an organizational study to be undertaken by former POC deputy secretary-general Mark Joseph but the amount wasn’t used as the project never got off the ground. The POC decided to return the $22,500 plus pay back $1,463 since the period of liquidation had lapsed for these two amounts. The liquidation of $36,000 was eventually accomplished. Last week, Olympic Solidarity head of athletes and relations with the Olympic Council of Asia and Asian National Olympic Committees Olivier Niamkey sent a message to the POC acknowledging receipt of $23,963 and the liquidation of $36,000.

“It has been reviewed and it is approved,” said Niamkey. “We just need a little adjustment in the format so it can be definitely closed. You just have to enter the amount in your local currency where specified in red. As soon as we receive this, this file will be closed.”

Picson said the issue is now settled. “No one has been cleared because no one has been charged,” he said. “No one has been accused of stealing. In future transactions, it will be clear where money comes from, for what purpose it is supposed to be used and how it will be disbursed and by whom. We’ve brought in an accounting firm and assigned Lean Aure, accountant of the MVP Sports Foundation, to handle our books with absolute transparency. There are new accounting procedures in place. Beyond that, Mr. Vargas has scaled down the allowances given to POC officials for travel. For instance, the $300 a day allowance has been reduced.”

According to POC deputy secretary-general Karen Caballero, the new per diem rates are $100 within Southeast Asia, $150 in Asian countries like Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong with a high cost of living and $200 for the rest of the world. 

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