COA exec says hands tied on Ilocos tobacco fund mess

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 25 2017 01:49 PM

MANILA- A Commission on Audit (COA) official admitted Tuesday that auditors could not scrutinize records connected to the alleged misuse of tobacco excise taxes in Ilocos Norte in 2011 and 2012. 

At the resumption of the House inquiry into alleged anomalies in Ilocos Norte's tobacco excise tax disbursements, COA-Ilocos officer-in-charge Michael Bacani explained that under the law, auditors could only access records dating only up to 3 years back. 

"Ang nasa batas po kasi natin, ang pwede lang i-open ng current auditors ay 3 years lang po. Kung lagpas na po ng 3 years, kailangan ng approval ng Commission proper po ng COA," he said. 
 
Local governments are allowed to retain a share of tobacco excise taxes strictly for projects that would advance the self-reliance of tobacco farmers. 

But Ilocos Norte officials, including Gov. Imee Marcos, allegedly misused tobacco excise tax shares when they purchased vehicles worth P66.45 million for farmer-beneficiaries from 2011 to 2012. 

Appearing at the inquiry for the first time, Marcos admitted during Tuesday's hearing that the purchase of 70 mini trucks did not undergo the bidding process

Bacani said auditors have started examining Ilocos Norte's financial records from 2014 to 2016. 

House Committee on Justice Chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, however, said these efforts would be of no use in the inquiry. 

"Ang pinag-uusapan nating transaksyon is 2011 and 2012, tapos nire-review niyo ay 2014 to 2016. Para tayong namamana sa tumana, ika nga. Wala tayong makikita because the questioned transactions date back to 2011 and 2012," he said. 
 
Umali appealed to COA Chair Michael Aguinaldo to expedite the release of the needed records.