Audit city’s finances - Margot

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - May 20, 2016 - 12:00am

‘Too many worms coming out’ 

CEBU, Philippines - Aiming to reveal the “real financial status”of Cebu City Hall, acting mayor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña requested the Bureau of Local Government Finance to audit the city's coffers.

In a May 18 letter to BLGF OIC regional director Mercy Santos, Osmeña said the audit of the city's finances is "for the interest of public transparency and accountability."

"In line with the assumption of the undersigned as Acting Mayor of the City of Cebu effective May 17, 2016, may we request for the conduct of audit on the city's finances on all funds at the Office of the Treasurer," the letter read.

Osmeña assumed office as acting mayor after outgoing Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, and 12 other city councilors were suspended until June 30 because of the disbursement of P20,000 calamity aid to each of the 4,200 City Hall employees and officials.

"It shall be appreciated if the said audit will be conducted the soonest possible time so as not to hamper the delivery of treasury services," Osmeña said.

Sought for his comment, Rama refused to issue any statement on Osmeña's move.

"I don't want to be commenting on her moves," he told The FREEMAN over the phone.

Prior to this letter-request, Osmeña issued memorandum to all department heads and employees to stop or hold the issuance of payments and checks last Tuesday, her first day as acting mayor.

She, however, clarified that issuing payments for transactions that involves basic services, like providing for the City Hospitalization Assistance and Medicines Program and the burial assistance program, will continue.

"I want to make something clear. When I issued the memo to stop the payment, it does not include the services like burial assistance, CHAMP (medical assistance). That continues, okay? I want to make that clear because people are saying that some people are dying because I refused to pay CHAMP," she said.

In a phone interview over her request, Osmeña said "I want a cash audit," saying she wanted to know the real financial status of the city.

Osmeña said she was informed that the city has only P7.6 billion under its General Fund.

"If we have to pay back to giant developers, so...?" she said, saying the city is in a state of bankruptcy.

Osmeña was referring to transactions last year after the city got P8.3 billion from three giant developers that won the public bidding for 45.2-hectare lots at the South Road Properties.

If the city did not have that transaction, she said, the balance of the city's treasury would now be zero.

This is why, she said, she requested the audit.

Because of her memorandum to stop the issuance of payments, Osmeña said she was told by City Engineer Jose Marie Poblete that there were payables to contractors of different projects of the city that were stalled.

Osmeña said these contractors were reportedly asking the city to pay for the projects that they are undertaking.

But, she said, she has not received any documents on these yet.

In a separate interview, Poblete said he has no idea as to the total of the payables the city owed the different contractors because he was absent yesterday.

He, however, stressed that it is a normal process that the city has payables to several contractors because of the phases of completion of the projects undertaken.

"Basta, progress billing man na so depende sa progress sa mga projects. Then depende pod kun naa ba i-submit nga billing ang contractor," he told The FREEMAN in a text message.

Osmeña, though, clarified that she will sign any payables "as long as everything is proper."

"If they can show me the document, why not? I just want to make sure kay I will be the one to sign na ra ba, right?" she said.

She said her transition team and the transition team of her husband, mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña, are asking for  the financial report since it is among the list under the memorandum issued by Department of Interior and Local Government "for a smooth transition" of office once Tomas takes over.

"We asked for the contracts of the ongoing projects.  The transition committee is asking for the list," Margot said, saying she has not received any report from the different City Hall offices yet.

She also asked all departments and offices to conduct an inventory of all payables and obligations and immediately submit a report to her office, saying her transition team and Tomas' team will check everything if all the transactions are in order."

 "There are too many worms coming out," she said.

Sought for comment, City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas said she was still collating the data Osmeña requested.

Cuevas said her office is holding on to several checks because of the memorandum of the acting mayor.

"Naay gamay nga impact kay ma-hold ang payments, but dili man pod ni permanent nga i-hold gyod ang payment. They are making an inventory, okay ra man na siya," she said, saying contractors and suppliers were also informed of acting mayor's instruction.

Cuevas said she understood Osmeña's move requesting BLGF to audit the city's finances because it is part of the transition to the new administration comes July 1. — / RHM (FREEMAN)

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