MANILA — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) over its regional office's transactions related to an anti-insurgency "workshop" that cost over P1 million, saying the lack of documents casts doubts on its "propriety."
"[M]eals and accommodations of NCIP RO XIII (Caraga) amounting to P1,064,219.06 for NTF-ELCAC Regional Action Planning Workshop were not duly supported with sufficient and complete documentations... casting doubts on the propriety and regularity of the transaction... Moreover, the procurement was not done through a competitive public bidding," COA said in its annual audit report on NCIP.
NCIP is the lead government agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies, plans, and programs to protect the rights the indigenous peoples (IPs).
State auditors flagged NCIP-Caraga for overpaying on food and accommodations when it overestimated the number of participants in the workshop.
"The number of accommodations should have been equal to the number of participants indicated per meal or lower but not higher."
COA also said it discovered revisions in the attendance sheet of the NTF-ELCAC event.
"Further scrutiny of the attendance sheet disclosed that there are alterations made with the date, and there are names listed that did not bear signatures of the participants," COA said.
The NTF-ELCAC workshop in question was held at Amontay Beach Resort in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte last Nov. 2020—prior to the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine—and was attended by 300 to 500 people.
NCIP commissioners, bureau directors, and other personnel from the central office in Manila were flown to Butuan City for the said NTF-ELCAC workshop, COA noted.
Justifying the cost, NCIP said the Agusan del Norte event was a combination of 3 activities, all related to NTF-ELCAC.
They added it was a last minute decision of the central office to combine the 3 events, forcing the regional office to do away with public bidding in order to immediately find a supplier that could provide what they needed.
However, COA said this could have been avoided had there been proper preparation for the activity.
Uncollected financial assistance
Meanwhile, COA also called out the same regional office for its failure to collect, for the past 7 years, financial assistance from Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation as mandated under their memorandum of agreement, depriving IPs of benefits intended for them.
The demandable amount has now ballooned to P14 million, COA said.
"With the non-receipt of an estimated amount of P14 million as financial assistances from THPAL reckoned from calendar years 2014 to 2020, the ICCs/IPs in the region were deprived of the benefits intended to them," government auditors said.
NCIP said they would comply to COA's recommended that they follow up on Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation regarding the status of the release of the financial assistance.