COA: P56-M Marawi funds 'not fully extended' to fishermen beneficiaries

Some P56.8 million worth of Bangon Marawi projects coursed through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) "were not fully extended to beneficiaries," the Commission on Audit (COA) said.

The projects consisted of giving out fishing gears and other livelihood materials like fish stalls to victims of the 2017 Marawi siege, when Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the touted emir of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute, who wanted an ISIS caliphate in the Philippines, tried to take Marawi City. The siege lasted for five months.

BFAR Northern Mindanao was given the responsibility to help Marawi locals rebuild their livelihoods by giving free gears.

According to their consolidated report on the audit of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) funds for 2020, state auditors found that there were either incomplete deliveries, complete deliveries with most of the items damaged, or complete deliveries with items in need of repairs.

These were mostly due to "erring suppliers/contractors and unsupportive partner Local Government Unit (LGU)," said COA.

"The agency received and kept the items partially delivered on site by the supplier, however, no Inspection and Acceptance Report (IAR) was signed nor payment was prepared until their full delivery," said auditors.

BFAR said the change in focal persons affected the utilization and disbursements.

"The obtaining circumstance depicts laxity of management in asserting government rights in its transactions, thus, detrimental to the government. Also, the counterpart of the recipient LGU should be addressed accordingly in order not to hamper the timely implementation of the PPA nor deprive stakeholders/beneficiaries of the intended full benefits therefrom," said COA.

Disaster funds flagged

The P56-million fisheries project is part of the P450.9-million disaster funds – a bulk of it for Bangon Marawi – flagged by COA. The total flagged amount includes a P26-million unliquidated water project for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

(Editor's Note: We initially reported P454 million, as we included P3.4 million from the Department of Agriculture. The DA figure is P3.4 billion and, as it is not specifically either Marawi or Yolanda funds, we are excluding it from the total count.)

This table shows the breakdown of the 2020 disaster funds, their recipients, and COA's comments on fund use.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Northern Mindanao procured computer supplies worth P542,000 under the Task Force Bangon Marawi Project, which auditors said were not included in the items to be procured under Republic Act No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

"The use of NDRRM Fund by DENR 10 for purposes other than what is provided for by law violates Section 22 of RA No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010," said COA.

COA also flagged the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) for comingling P43.036 million in Marawi Shelter Project funds with other accounts, "defeating the purpose of providing a sound and effective internal control on the receipt and utilization of the Fund solely for its specific purpose," said the auditors.

The project was in agreement with the United Nations-Habitat, which was specified in the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and thus was "categorically considered as a restricted fund, subject to strict monitoring." However, the SHFC deposited it to its Community Mortgage Program (CMP) bank account intended for loan takeouts.

"As a subsidy fund subject to strict monitoring with periodic reportorial requirements until its full liquidation, the Marawi Shelter Project Fund being deposited and commingled with the CMP Fund intended for loan takeout is contrary to Sections 110, 111, 124 of PD No. 1445, and defeats the purpose of providing a sound and effective internal control on the monitoring of receipt and utilization of funds solely for its specific purpose," said COA.

The SHFC has agreed to open a separate bank account.

Unliquidated funds

COA also flagged a total P28.98 million in unliquidated funds for both victims of the Marawi siege and Yolanda. A bulk of the unliquidated funds amounting to P24.6 million had been transferred by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to the Leyte Metropolitan Water District (LMWD) to install water meters for the homes built in resettlement sites.

The amount remained unliquidated in 2020, said COA.

"Further, the documents submitted to the Audit Team by OCD do not include report issued by the concerned OCD official on the extent of accomplishment of the project, Notice Of Award and the corresponding Contract documents covering the 14,000 water meters, as provided in the Memorandum Of Agreement," said COA.

Of the unliquidated P28.98 million, P679,822 went to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) units to help soldiers affected by Yolanda, and P3.66 million for soldiers affected by the Marawi siege.

In a letter sent to Rappler on Thursday, September 16, Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, Civil Defense Administrator and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Executive Director, said that the OCD had fully liquidated the funds. He said they submitted the required documents to COA on March 22, 2021.

"Due to difficulties encountered in the procurement processes as well as the pandemic which started in 2020, only recently was LMWD able to submit to OCD the abovementioned documents. With the submission of the documents specified in the audit observation memorandum, OCD has fully liquidated the P24.6 million fund," Jalad said in his letter.

COA also hit the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) for slow implementation of its solid waste management projects under the Bangon Marawi Funds.

"Review of the disbursements made by the EMB Region 10 revealed that out of the ₱321.527 million obligations incurred by the agency in CY 2019 only ₱48.541 million or 15% was disbursed leaving an unpaid obligation amounting to ₱272.986 million in CY 2020," said COA.

Because of the low disbursement rate, the construction of a sanitary landfill in Marawi has been delayed.

EMB explained that "they have ongoing conflicts and issues concerning the rights to the property purchased by the agency for the construction of a sanitary landfill in Marawi City which resulted in delay in the implementation of the said project."

"They have yet to resolve this issue and are actually considering a different site for the said landfill," said EMB.

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.