COA probes drug dealer's use of gov't vehicle

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Nov 22 2012 01:18 PM | Updated as of Nov 22 2012 09:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Audit (CoA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza on Thursday said the agency will launch an investigation on how a government-issued car ended up in the hands of a suspected drug pusher.

Mendoza said CoA will look into the possible lapses committed by the National Power Corporation after one of the cars it issued was seized from an American national caught with P50 million worth of illegal drugs.

The car, a Mitsubishi Pajero, turned out to have been temporarily loaned to Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Mikey Arroyo's former chief of staff Atty. Antonio Mariano Almeda.

"Mayroon ngang mga pananagutan kung sakali po na nakaalis ang officer na meron siyang naka-MR (memorandum of receipt) na sasakyan na hindi na-turn over. Dapat mas lalong strict ang kanilang internal control over the issuance, utilization of vehicles," Mendoza told dzMM.

"Ang sinasabi ng batas natin, bago makaalis ang isang opisyal kailangan may clearance. In that case, naiisip ko, kung staff ang umalis, makakakuha siya ng clearance kasi 'di sa kanya naka-issue ang property. Kawawa ang maiipit dito sa side ng Napocor," she added.

Car not returned

The Napocor on Wednesday said it has been attempting to recover for the last two years the Pajero that was found in the possession of suspect Brian Hill during a buy-bust operation in Makati this week.

Official documents showed that Almeda requested NPC for an SUV vehicle in April 2008 after he was tasked by the House Committee on Energy, then chaired by Arroyo, to inspect all of Napocor's decommissioned power plants in Luzon and in some parts of Eastern Visayas.

NPC said it granted Almeda's request and temporarily assigned the Mitsubishi Pajero to him.

Almeda, however, failed to return the vehicle.

NPC then attempted to recover the Pajero by writing to Arroyo's office in June 2010 and again in August 2010.

NPC said it then filed a formal complaint before the Highway Patrol Group of the Philippine National Police on May 6, 2011 in an attempt to secure a hold order or recall of the Pajero.

However, the HPG, through its spokesperson Edwin Butacan, said their records showed that no formal complaint was filed on May 6, 2011. Butacan said the NPC may have only sent a request letter to the HPG.

Butacan said they have yet to verify, through macroetching procedure, if the Pajero was indeed the one issued by Napocor to Almeda.

He said the Napocor-issued Pajero (SEP 825) had a chassis number of J44WGN03743.

Arroyo, meanwhile, is keeping his distance from the allegations, saying his former chief of staff should be the one to answer them.

Strengthening audit process

Mendoza said this incident showed that the CoA still has a lot of work to do in terms of strengthening its audit process.

"Karamihan sa mga malalaking korporasyon, sinasabi natin maraming equipment. Kahit tayo ay nagko-conduct ng imbentaryo at nakikita ng auditor ang discrepancy between kung ano ang nasa libro at ang nasa physical count, 'di natin kaagad agad mai-tatama iyan,

"Hindi naman magpapahuli nang buhay ang mga iyan e. Kapag sinabi mong imbentaryo bukas, dadalhin 'yung sasakyan," she said.

She said the CoA is hoping to install more stringent audit measures in monitoring the use of government properties.

In the case of vehicles, she said CoA may now have to request for proper documents such as memoranda of receipt and trip tickets everytime a physical inventory is being done. – with a report from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM