Contrary to COA report

Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan

TACLOBAN CITY– Officials of Guiuan town in Eastern Samar defended themselves amid a report from the Commission on Audit (COA) that they have allegedly overspent their discretionary fund.

The officials, however, said that for one, they have not allocated any discretionary funds for COA to flag them for such an act.

Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan, in a phone interview, said that the COA could have mistaken the account for an extraordinary and miscellaneous expense (EME), which was also known as a discretionary fund when it was actually a regular fund.

“It was just a mistake on the use of the title of the account which COA considered as an extraordinary and miscellaneous expense or discretionary fund,” she said.

“The local government of Guiuan has no discretionary or confidential fund. The correct account title is other miscellaneous expense, which is a regular fund allocation,” Gonzales-Kwan added.

The same line of reasoning was also shared by the town’s budget and accounting officers who both said that though they are questioning the report of the COA, they have decided to realign this year’s similar budget amounting to P6.1 million for other purposes like procurement of office supplies, among others.

Jaime Lucero, municipal budget officer, said that since they have treated the questioned amount of P6 million as a regular fund and not a discretionary fund, all COA regulations were followed when this amount was spent last year.

“Since we treated the questioned amount of P6 million as a regular fund and not a discretionary fund, we adhered to all COA regulations during its expenditure last year. All processes, including procurement and canvassing, were followed meticulously, supported by thorough documentation,” he said in a phone interview.

According to Lucero, the P6 million was allocated to different offices of the local government like the offices of the mayor and vice mayor, treasurer, and tourism, among others.

For his part, municipal accountant Adrian Bernardo said that the amount was used by these offices for meetings, conferences, and even for public relations.

He also said that they were not aware that such an account was considered by CO as a discretionary fund.
“It was just a matter of nomenclature or question of title of the account. All expenses using this fund were all above board and complete with documents,” Lucero said.
He insisted that if they had treated the fund as a discretionary fund, they would not have any documents to show and support the expenses.
He said when using a discretionary fund, it would only need a certification that an amount was used.
To recall, the COA has reported that the municipal government of Guiuan overspent its EME last year amounting to P6.56 million when the cap for such allocation should only be P26,465.
Based on the Local Government Code or RA 7160, the appropriations for discretionary purposes of the local chief executive should not exceed two percent of the actual receipts derived from the basic real property tax in the next preceding calendar year.
For that particular period, the real property tax of Guiuan amounted to P1.32 million with the supposed EME capped at just P26, 465.