ARMM spent over P1B on shady deals, COA says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2011 02:15 AM | Updated as of Apr 09 2011 12:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines Over P1 billion worth of transactions by the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the period from January 2008 to September 2009 under former Governor Zaldy Ampatuan had inadequate, spurious or entirely non-existent support documents.

 This was the central finding in a 125-page report submitted last March 17 by a team of seven COA auditors to current ARMM Gov. Ansaruddin Adiong.

 The team was composed of team supervisor Elsielyn Masangcay; co-team leaders Florefe Avila and Grace de Castro; and members Marilyn Bibat, Gale Kathrine Modesto, Joselita Corteza, and Dondon Marcos.

COA Director IV Susan Garcia approved the report after a review of the findings by Director III Evelyn Reyes.

Auditors noted “total disregard of applicable laws, rules and regulations are evident” in many of the transactions involving the questioned sum particularly illustrated by grant of P866.51 million in cash advances which accounted to a whopping 80 percent of the total disbursements of the governor’s office during that period.

While general rules require that payments by government agencies be made through checks for reasons of security, COA reported “highly improbable daily cash payments” ranging from P7 million to as high as P13.48 million.

 “At one point, one accountable officer was holding P99.88 million in cash, which may already be considered unconscionable in view of the risks involved in maintaining such amount,” the team said.

Various purchases without any public bidding totaled P650.98 million and were supported by three price quotations from various suppliers “without any indicated addresses in most cases”.

 Auditors discovered another stunning detail – the said procurements were paid out of advances drawn by only one person, chief administrative officer Adham G. Patadon, who was bonded for only P5 million.

 Aside from Patadon, two other individuals were extended cash advances far beyond their allowable limits namely administrative officer V Nelia Garde who has a bond for only P1.5 million but held P83 million, while executive assistant VI Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan drew P27 million despite being bonded for only P500,000.

Together, the three of them drew 98.64% of all cash advances released by the ORG during the period in question amounting to P854.75 million.

 Auditors noted that only P3.4 million out of P744.56 million released to Patadon had a specific purpose while the rest of the amount were simply described as “operational expenses.”

A liaison office being maintained by the ORG-ARMM in Metro Manila was found to have spent P29.26 million from January 2008 to September 2009.

COA said the satellite office, tasked to perform “only coordination and liaison activities” occupied a suite in a building in Legazpi Village, Makati City leased at P172,670 per month and employed 45 personnel of which only nine were regular backed up by 18 casual and 18 contractual employees.