Cebu News

Cebu City’s asphalt procurement illegal?

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Despite having its own asphalt batching plant, the Cebu City government has procured P61.2 million worth of asphalt materials allegedly in violation of existing laws.

The amount could not be properly validated since the transaction lack pertinent procurement documents, program of work, plans, inspection reports and inventory of roads/city streets where the paving and retreading took place, according to the Commission on Audit.

“The city did not utilize its own asphalt batching plant but instead procured its bituminous asphalt from private entities thus defeating the purpose of maintaining the plant and incurring unnecessary maintenance and manpower cost while being utilized,” read the audit report.

“Likewise, the procurement of construction materials for paving and retreading of various city streets could not be validated due to absence of documents… thereby casting doubt as to the validity of the deliveries,” state auditors added.

These violate Section 4.1 of COA Circular No. 2012-003 dated October 29, 2012, and Section 4 paragraph 6 of Presidential Decree No. 1445 and COA Circular No. 2012-003, respectively.

Section 4 of COA Circular states that unnecessary expenditures are those that are not supportive of the implementation of the objectives and mission of the agency relative to the nature of the operation, including the incurrence of expenditures not dictated by the demands of good government, and those the utility of which cannot be ascertained at a specific time.

But, Mayor Michael Rama contradicted the observation of the commission. He said the batching plant, which was installed and started operating in 1999 yet, became un-operational since May of 2013. It was only made operational again in June 2014 after sufficient budget was allocated for the repair works.

The mayor got offended of the report pointing out that there was no proper audit query conducted to determine the exact status of the facility.

“With all due respect, the said COA audit observation is lacking in diligence and somewhat shows the propensity of COA to be judgmental rather than to be inquisitive first. It tends to show a seeming lack of appreciation to local government mandates and service exigencies,” he said.

He explained it was the prerogative of the executive department to purchase the asphalt materials knowing the intensity and the urgency of the paving and retreading of roads when the batching plant conked out.

He said the purchases are covered under Purchase Order Nos. 67, 69 and 305 for the ready-to-spread asphalt materials and PO Nos. 1027 and 1029 for materials needed in preparing asphalt mix.

The procurement, he pointed out further, has all the supporting documents to back up the purchase orders. The documents were attached to the city’s reply to COA hoping to dispel “doubts as to the validity of the deliveries” of the procured asphalt materials and the observation would be rectified.

Rama assured that the city is properly utilizing the road maintenance in accordance with the accounting and auditing rules. Also, he clarified that there was no incurring of “unnecessary” maintenance and manpower cost at the batching plant because the workers were temporarily assigned to do other tasks.

Moreover, he said the city can only do patching works because of budgetary constraints. In 2014, he cited that only P50 million was appropriated by the city council far below the proposed P200 million.

“The approved appropriation does not correspond to the proposed maintenance works programmed for the year but are often way below the requested amount. Such amount makes it impractical for DEPW to contract out the entire asphalting works for particular road lengths to private contractors,” he said.  — Kristine B. Quintas/FPL (FREEMAN)











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