COA: Wives, kin work as councilors’ drivers

(The Freeman) - August 5, 2015 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Commission on Audit has questioned Talisay City government’s hiring of 12 drivers for the members of the City Council because none of them were issued government vehicle.

State auditors have recommended terminating the employment of these drivers who were found to be close relatives of the councilors. Some are even councilors’ wives.  What is more anomalous is that some of them do not have driver’s license.

COA said that the hiring of the 12 drivers last year is considered “unnecessary spending and wastage of government funds.”

“We recommend that management direct the persons responsible to explain in writing on the hiring of SP (Sangguniang Panglungsod) drivers despite the absence of motor vehicles assigned for their use and to stop practice to avoid incurrence of unnecessary expenditures and wastage of government funds,” COA said in its report of Talisay City’s 2014 operations.

COA reminded the city government of Section 4 of COA circular No. 2012-003, which defines unnecessary expenditures as pertaining to those which “could not pass the test of prudence or the diligence of a good father of a family, hereby denoting non-responsiveness to the exigencies of the service.”

The 12 co-terminus employees were hired as drivers for Vice Mayor Romeo Villarante and the 11 members of the council “even if there are no motor vehicles assigned to them.”

These drivers were assigned to the offices of Villarante and “performed clerical/liaison functions already assigned to other personnel” costing the city P659,50.50 in salaries for 2014 alone, COA said.

The drivers were identified as Elycrisjoe dela Cuesta, Rodelo Goltino, Cashmer Ararao, Roberto Michael Pahati, Alexander Gabi, Henry Alesna, Marie Rose Cedol, Milagros Emit, Louie James Yrastorza, Wendy Mae Sevillano, Deogracia Navarro and Arnulfo Alpuerto. Each of them is receiving a monthly salary of P9,361.

Villarante, in his reply addressed to state auditor Ma. Daisy Bercede, said the council was just being prudent in not purchasing vehicles for the offices, which could have cost the city at least P15 million.

Villarante said the drivers’ salaries were, in fact, huge savings on the part of the city. 

He also said the council decided in good faith to hire drivers and use the officials’ private cars in the performance of official functions.

“The vice mayor is not remiss in reminding the councilors to follow the rules, especially on the tasks of their employees. To his knowledge, the subject employees are serving as drivers of the SP members and are performing their functions even beyond official hours during the performance of official functions,” Villarante said. 

Villarante maintained that the hiring was lawful due to the “demands of public and exigency of service performed by elected council members.”

The City Council approved last year an ordinance creating the positions of 12 drivers and 12 secretaries, which the council members divided among themselves. — (FREEMAN)

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