Commission on Audit

COA: Ex-Davao DA officials liable for illegal use of Malampaya Fund to pay for meals

Rappler.com
COA: Ex-Davao DA officials liable for illegal use of Malampaya Fund to pay for meals

Photos of farmer and fisherman from Shutterstock

Former officials of the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit No. 11 charge more than P830,000 in meals to the Malampaya Fund, which is supposed to be used for rice self-sufficiency programs

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) has ruled that former Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit No. 11 (DA-RFU 11) officials were liable for the illegal use of the Malampaya Fund to reimburse meals and snacks totaling P830,423.73.

“The disallowed transaction pertains to the reimbursement mostly of meals, assorted fruits, fish for visitors from DA Central Office, and snacks, the payment of which was sourced from the Malampaya Fund. This constitutes an improper use of the fund,” the COA ruled in a January 2022 decision, which had recently been made public.

Under Administrative Order No. 244, P4 billion from the Malampaya Fund was given to the Department of Agriculture for use in rice self-sufficiency programs. However, in its review, the COA found that the former DA officials had been using the Malampaya Fund for purposes quite different from rice self-sufficiency programs – like meals, car rentals, and office supplies.

The COA said that former DA-RFU 11 regional executive director Roger Chio reimbursed a total of P1,268,955.45 in extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses (EME) from December 24, 2008 to May 20, 2009. This amount included representation expenses, telephone expenses, car rentals, and office supplies.

Of this, the COA said that P830,423.73 was used to pay for dubious transactions related to food, as follows:

ExpenseBasis for disallowanceAmount reimbursed
Various fruits, fish, and delicacies expensesExpenses were excessive.P599,516.17
Meals and other expensesThe name of the agency was not indicated in the receipts/invoices.P187,756.56
Meals Confirmation of receipts with some establishment showed differences in the retained copy of the agency.P11,531.00
MealsReceipts issued by business establishments which cannot be located.P31,620.00

The COA also flagged the balance of P438,531.72 in non-food expenses, which was also charged to the Malampaya Fund. As such, the Commission directed the audit team leader and the supervising auditor to reevaluate the P438,531.72 and determine whether a supplemental notice of disallowance for the amount should be issued.

“The total EME paid in the amount of P1,268,955.45 was sourced entirely from the Malampaya Fund. The expenses do not fall under any rice self-sufficiency program of the government. As it is, the use of the Malampaya Fund for the payment of EME is illegal. Thus, the entire amount of P1,268,955.45 should be disallowed,” it explained in its decision.

The decision affirmed the notice of disallowance that it had issued in 2012, denying the appeal lodged by finance division chief Alma Mahinay and regional accountant Mariflor Garcia for lack of merit.

The COA held the following former DA officials liable on the basis of their participation in the disallowed transaction: Chio, regional technical director Romulo Palcon, administrative officers Ma. Lorna Jamora and Gilda Cordero, accountants Josefina Ladaga and Marypaz Ramirez, administrative aide Roy Jose Pascua, agriculture technologist Elizabeth Torio, engineer Ricardo Oñate Jr, Mahinay, and Garcia.

Meanwhile, the COA regional director excluded administrative assistant Rosalina Prochina, cashiers Crispina Lopez and Corazon Ebero, and staff member Ma. Dulce Corazon Domingo from liability under the notice of disallowance.

The Malampaya Fund was a special fund set up to collect profits from oil and gas operations in the waters off Palawan for energy resource development and other uses. Since its inception, it has been embroiled in corruption, with hundreds of millions being plundered and mismanaged. – Rappler.com

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