COA: Ex-DepEd Region 9 exec, 2 others liable for P12.5M fraud

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    THE Commission on Audit has affirmed the 2013 ruling of COA Regional Office 9 that held three officials of the Department of Education Regional Office 9 liable for the disappearance of P12.512 million from the agency’s payroll account in 2007.

    In a decision dated October 1, 2019 but released only last week, the COA Commission Proper said it is convinced that former DepEd-RO9 regional director Jesus Nieves, chief accountant Marilou Tolosa, and cashier Virginia Montero conspired to defraud the government.

    COA chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc denied the petition for review filed by Tolosa asking to the relieved of liability over the transaction, saying she was not the one in charge of safekeeping the said funds.

    Based on audit records, Nieves and Montero executed two authorization letters dated November 29, 2007 asking the Philippine Veterans Bank-Zamboanga City branch to transfer the amounts of P6.164 million and P6.347 million from the PVB ATM-Payroll Account of DepEd-RO9 to an account previously belonging to the Belgian Integrated Agrarian Reform Support Program (BIARSP).

    However, the BIARSP Phase 1 was already a finished program having been implemented from 1998 to 2003.

    Auditors found that it was Tolosa who supposedly requested the PVB to close down the BIARSP account on August 24, 2007 with the balance of onlyP157.93 moved to a trust account.

    Even so, the total fund transfer of P12.512 million still went into the former BIARSP account.

    On December 3, 2007, upon authorization from Nieves, auditors said Montero made a cash advance totaling P6.164 million from the supposedly closed account.

    Upon discovery of irregularities, the DepEd Central Office ordered an investigation resulting in the filing of administrative charges against the three for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

    “When Mr. Nieves and Ms. Montero authorized the transfer of the said amount from the ATM-payroll account to the BIARSP account, they applied the public fund …for a purpose other than that for which such fund was appropriated. Such act constitutes the crime of technical malversation,” the COA said.

    On the participation of Dollosa, the commission noted that she had the duty to supervise the proper recording of all financial transactions, but she neglected to do so.