MANILA, Philippines – Cesar Montano was abroad 14 times in 2017 – 91 days of 365 days, equivalent to almost 25% of the year – and incurred expenses deemed "excessive and extravagant" by the Commission on Audit (COA).
COA revealed in its 2017 audit report of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) that Montano, as former TPB chief operating officer (COO), spent P2.276 million for himself alone when he traveled to Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America in 2017.
Montano flew to Russia, Canada, and the United States on business class, totaling P594,000 worth of tickets, contrary to executive orders which require that officials travel on economy only, unless authorized by the President.
The TPB spent another P2.995 million on Montano's travels because the agency paid for the expenses of his private secretary and executive assistant whom he brought along in 11 of his 14 travels.
Moreover, the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Deputy for International Promotions incurred P1.957 million for 16 travels to Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America.
State auditors considered these expenses "excessive and extravagant" as defined by audit rules.
"The TPB should find ways to minimize the cost and optimize the performance of duties of its officers and employees for an effective and efficient organization," said COA.
Montano resigned back in May following the controversy that hounded the P80-million Buhay Carinderia project, which the TPB paid for when the project was only 15% completed. (READ: 'Buhay Carinderia' gets P80M in a month under Cesar Montano)
Travels of non-related personnel
It doesn't stop there.
COA also noted that the TPB had a habit of sending personnel, whose tasks are not related, to these foreign trips.
Instead of marketing officers, the TPB instead sent the following to represent the Philippine delegation to tourism events:
This practice "exposed TPB to the risk of incurrence of unnecessary travel expenses, preferential biases and conflict of interests such that non-marketing and promotions personnel were deployed to undertake marketing assignments abroad."
But were the officers sent abroad effective in their tasks there? We can't be sure.
"There were no individual accomplishment reports/narrative reports which can be a basis for evaluation and monitoring performances and evaluation of the trips' relevance to TPB's mandate and learnings therefrom to improve TPB's performance," said COA.
Finally, COA wants Montano and his two assistants to refund P66,620 which were supposed to have been for their tickets to attend the Philippine Business Mission to Japan. They did not attend the event. – Rappler.com