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MANILA, Philippines– Discovery Shores Boracay is in a bind after state auditors told the company that it cannot collect over P456,000 of unpaid bills from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and was instead told to demand the amount from former officials.
In a decision released on September 15, COA denied the petition filed by Discovery World Corporation, the operator of Discovery Shores, against the DOT for payment of hotel rooms, meals and other services incurred in 2018.
The hotel said that former tourism secretary Wanda Teo-Tulfo, as well as undersecretary Katherine De Castro, assistant secretary Frederick Alegre, Angelito Ucol and Julius Disamburun, stayed in Discovery Shores to attend meetings for the Boracay rehabilitation. The officials were in Boracay from February 28 to March 3, 2018 and April 25 to 27, 2018. The reservation contracts were signed by DOT Western Visayas regional director Helen Catalbas.
COA underscored that DOT’s choice of hotel was too expensive, noting that Discovery Shores is a five-star hotel. It added that there were other reasonably priced hotels in Boracay.
“Based on the records, the rate in Discovery Shores is P13,000 per room per night. This exceeds the P400 per day hotel/lodging fees allowed …even assuming that the five DOT officials and employees occupied a single room,” COA said.
State auditors also noted that meal expenses were not supported by minutes of the meetings, attendance sheet, and similar documentation.
COA found that while only a few tourism officials attended the meetings, the hotel’s bills showed meals were served for “25 to 35 persons,” with one bill even reaching over P48,000.
“To grant the amount of claim which is immoderate and above the normal and reasonable rate of expenditures, despite the lack of contract and supporting documents, would run counter with this Commission’s mandate to prevent excessive and extravagant expenditures,” COA said.
Former DOT secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who replaced Teo, has already told Discovery Shores that the department cannot settle the bill since the transactions lacked a certificate of availability of funds and proof of compliance with the Government Procurement Reform Act. –Rappler.com