Tacloban misspent nearly P1B in Yolanda funds – COA

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – If thousands of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Tacloban City have yet to feel the benefits of millions of pesos in rehabilitation funds, it is because irregularities marked a variety of projects, state auditors found.

The irregularities involved a total of P907.56 million meant for infrastructure, aquaculture, and emergency shelter assistance projects, the Commission on Audit (COA) said in its 2015 audit report on the city government.

The report was released on Wednesday, July 27.

The funds were given to the city government by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

A total of 31 infrastructure projects, covering the construction or repair of barangay halls and mini-gymnasiums, have not been completed as of February 3, 2016.

The contractors for the projects worth P100.23 million, under the Recovery Assistance for Yolanda (RAY), have yet to face penalties under the Government Procurement Reform Act, the report said.

Meanwhile, 19 additional projects worth P46.53 million were suspended after the contracts were awarded, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from revisions of the plans to the project being within "no-build zones."

Auditors also found out that missed deadlines and poor planning plagued the P32.55 million Mariculture Park Rehabilitation Program, which aimed to supply fishermen with fish cages and bangus (milk fish) fingerlings.

Out of 150 planned fish cages, each worth P160,000, only 95 were delivered to eligible recipients. This was because, auditors found out, the beneficiaries needed to cough up P216,000 per cage to feed one cropping of bangus.

In addition, a supplier failed to deliver even a single fingerling to the beneficiaries on time under a contract worth P8.5 million.

Violations

COA auditors also found out that one out of 5 beneficiaries of the million-peso Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) program of the city's social welfare office were not eligible.

The report said: "For CY 2015, the City Government of Tacloban disbursed a total amount of P728,260,000 for the DSWD Emergency Shelter Program for 138 barangays. The [City Social Welfare and Development Office, CSWDO] did not follow some of the program implementation guidelines."

These included giving assistance to families with monthly incomes of P15,000 or higher, and lack of physical inspections of the recipients' homes. The auditors also found out that there was wide disparity in the amounts distributed to the recipients, which were not commensurate to the damage their homes incurred due to the typhoon.

The CSWDO head told the auditors that the affected families did not give "true information" during their assessment. At the same time, the official said all residents of Tacloban should be considered eligible, since the city was the most devastated area post-Yolanda.

COA, however, said the city government should stick to the rules in selecting the beneficiaries of the program.

The auditing agency also said fund disbursements that violated the rules will be issued Notices of Suspension and Disallowance, which will compel those liable to submit proof of eligibility, or else they will be required to reimburse the government of the entire amount given to them.

Ex-mayor: We gave what the people deserve

In a statement Saturday, July 30, the camp of former mayor Alfred Romualdez said the city government did not misspend the Yolanda recovery funds.

"Kung tutuusin kaya nga kami nasita eh kasi ibinigay po naming ang nararapat lang talaga na para sa kanila," the statement said. (READ: Ex-Tacloban mayor: Yolanda funds not misspent)

(Come to think of it, our attention was called because we gave our constituents what they deserve.) 

"As a Mayor and an elected local government executive, my primary duty is to my constituents, the very people who elected me as Mayor," the statement added. – Rappler.com