MANILA, Philippines – The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) blamed the anomalous payments of over P80 million for the Buhay Carinderia project on former chief Cesar Montano and former tourism secretary Wanda Teo.
“The payments to Mary Lindbert International Incorporated were made with seemingly undue haste. The TPB Finance Department was constrained to process disbursements despite the non-submission of the necessary documents for the release of funds. These were done upon the directives of former COO and former Secretary of DOT as explained by the OIC of Finance Department,” said the TPB management when asked by the Commission on Audit (COA).
Montano is the former TPB Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Teo is the former Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary.
The COA recently released its 2018 audit report of the TPB where it found the project to be illegal and overpriced.
State auditors have recommended legal actions against “the persons liable to this onerous contract.”
Buhay Carinderia is a food tourism project with advertising company Mary Lindbert International, under which the TPB would provide financial sponsorship for the first phase of the project amounting to P80 million.
Rappler reported in 2018 that the TPB, under Montano, paid P80 million in less than a month even if the project was far from completion.
In the audit report, the COA said that the TPB paid P80.640 million “even without prior liquidation of the previous tranches paid as there was no previous stipulation in the Memorandum Of Agreement for the submission of liquidation/utilization reports with supporting documents.”
Asked for their explanation, the TPB management agreed the payments were done in “undue haste” and blamed Montano and Teo.
Illegal and overpriced
COA said Buhay Carinderia was also overpriced.
“The contract price for the project of P80.640 million plus VAT, was excessive as compared to other TPB project, like the “Madrid Fusion Manila 2017”, with contract price of P43.417 million only. The advertisement expenses for the said project amounted to P2.116 million or 4.87%. While, the Buhay Carenderia’s advertisements amounted to P50.152 million or 62.69% of the total project cost,” said COA.
The contract was found to have violated multiple procurement and budgetary rules, said auditors.
It turns out the project was charged to the 2017 budget of the TPB, even though it was not included in that year’s Annual Procurement Plan (APP) and Project Procurement Management Plan (PPMP).
This violated two provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the procurement law.
Auditors also found the TPB actually had deficiencies for 2017, which makes it all the more irregular that it allotted money for the project.
Under Presidential Decree No.1445, no contract can be entered into unless it is included in the appropriation or if there are savings.
“However, comparison of the receipts as against the expenditures in 2017 resulted in an overdraft of P256.314 million due to inability of Management to realize the projected receipts for 2017,” said COA.
“Thus, showing no savings for CY 2017 as a legal source of funds for the ‘Buhay Carinderia’ Project,” added COA.
State auditors added the contract was very disadvantageous as it authorized Mary Lindbert to charge payments without submitting receipts, invoices and other proofs of expenses.
The COA said, despite an order from the DOT to submit reports for the 2nd quarter of 2019, “Mary Lindbert International was unable to submit the liquidation reports for all incurred expenses and refund the unutilized amount.”