THE Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged an alleged misuse of some P50 million worth of funding earmarked for a multipurpose building at the Athletic Bowl in Baguio.
The P50 million was funded by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the city was responsible for using it to implement the construction of a multipurpose building.
However, according to the COA, the funds were “diverted” into other purposes and that the second of two contracts between the city and the project contractor M.E. Sicat Construction was made specifically to support the payment of the first partial billing of the project.
COA reports indicate that the 50.36 percent project accomplishment for which city hall made a payment after the first progress billing for the DPWH project was actually the 6.7 percent project accomplishment of the entire Youth Convergence Center and Sports Complex, whereas first progress payments are only supposed to be made when at least 20 percent of the project has been implemented.
City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña denied the allegations of fund misuse, claiming that the Convergence Center funding was P50 million short and the funds for the completion of the project were always intended to go to the center but were labeled differently by the DPWH.
“That is where the problem is – the project title was different, but when we had our exit conference with COA, they said that we just needed a certification that the project is one and the same,” Dela Peña said.
THE local government clarified that there was no misuse of the P25 million that was downloaded to the city by the public works department for the construction of a multipurpose building at the Baguio Athletic Bowl and that there are no missing funds in such a case.
City Administrator Bonifacio dela Pena claimed that the construction of the multipurpose building under the menu of the public works department and the put up of the Baguio youth convergence center and indoor sports complex are actually the same.
He added that the source of funds of the P391 million for the said project is both the public works department in the amount of P50 million and the local government amounting to more or less P341 million.
The city administrator stated that the P50 million fund from the public works department is covered by a memorandum of agreement between the agency and the local government where some P25 million was already downloaded to the city pursuant to the said agreement.
In its 2022 audit report, the Commission on Audit (COA) stated the city hall used funds originally designated for a multipurpose building in the Athletic Bowl for the ongoing construction of the Youth Convergence Center and Sports Complex.
The COA referred to a P50-million budget from the DPWH for the multipurpose building project, which the local government was responsible for implementing based on its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the department.
“The purpose of the Project MOA between the City Government of Baguio and the DPWH for the implementation of the DPWH Project was not achieved, and the funds released were used for purposes other than that authorized therein,” stated the COA in the report.
According to Dela Pena, the scope of work of the fund from the agency includes the construction of the foundation, the posts, and the slab up to the second floor while the funds from the local government will cover the remaining works to complete the said structure making it the best indoor sports complex in the north in the future.
Dela Pena said that what is being questioned by the Commission on Audit (COA) is the P25 million from the public works department that was used to pay the accomplishment of the contractor for the works within the scope of work of the said funds but efforts are now being done to address the same as the contractor committed to complete the programmed works this month.
He explained that what is being required from the city is a joint certification signed by authorized individuals from the city and the public works department stating that the construction of the multipurpose building and the put up of the Baguio youth convergence center and indoor sports complex are the same.
However, he disclosed that on the part of the city, the certification was signed but on the part of the public works department, it was not signed because concerned officials are not allegedly authorized to do so.
Dela Pena revealed that concerned city officials signed the aforesaid required certification which was submitted to the COA for information, guidance, and ready reference.
The local government department head expressed hope that the COA will consider the said certification considering that there was no fund that had been missing and that there was no misuse of the funds that were downloaded by the city to the public works department.
The local government will be providing the balance of the funds for the construction of the said center through a multi-year appropriation until it will be completed to be used by the athletes and sports enthusiasts not only from the city but also from neighboring communities.
One of the two contracts between the city government and the project contractor, M.E. Sicat Construction, also caught the attention of state auditors.
According to their report, the second contract attached to the voucher of the first partial payment for the DPWH project had a “doubtful date of execution, which is the same as that of the Statement of Work Accomplished.”
“It appeared that Contract 2 was just drawn to support the payment of the first partial billing of the DPWH project,” read part of the COA report. – Angel Castillo and Sherwin de Vera with reports from PIO