COA: Ex-Sarrat mayor, treasurer liable for illegal transfer of P30M PDAF

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    TWO former local executives of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte have failed to convince the Commission on Audit (COA) to lift the disallowance issued against them in relation to the illegal transfer of P30 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan Jr.

    In a decision dated January 8, 2020, the COA Commission Proper affirmed “with finality” the December 28, 2017 ruling of COA-Regional Office No. 1 that held former Sarrat mayor Edito Balintona and former municipal treasurer Liza Cariño liable for the disallowed transaction.

    State auditors noted that the PDAF allocations were intended as “financial subsidies” for the municipality in 2008 and 2009 but the LGU transferred the sum to the 1st District of Ilocos Norte Congressional Monitoring Office.

    “The three PDAF allocations transferred from the municipality to the 1st District of Ilocos Norte Congressional Monitoring Office were irregular. [It] was not an implementing agency designated under the Special Provision on PDAF… for fiscal year 2008 and 2009,” the COA said.

    In disallowing the fund transfer, government auditors pointed out that the receiving office was not listed as a designated implementing agency provided under the Special Provisions on PDAF in the General Appropriations Act for 2008 and 2009.

    “It was devoid of any authority to utilize the PDAF allocations in question. Violations of the Special Provisions on PDAF of the GAA for FYs 2008 and 2009… were equivalent to gross negligence amounting to bad faith,” the COA said.

    In their motion for reconsideration, Balintona and Cariño invoked good faith and sought exemption from having to refund the P30 million disbursements.

    The former mayor said he was guided by the directive under the Notices of Funding Check Issued from the Department of Budget and Management that funds released in the name of the municipality represent financial assistance for priority development programs and projects.

    Cariño for her part said she was unaware of any irregularity as she merely relied on the guidance of Balintona who is a lawyer and a certified public accountant.

    “After a careful evaluation, this Commission finds the MR not meritorious. The argument of good faith is a mere rehash and was already passed upon in the decision under reconsideration. Movant cannot feign ignorance and claim that they were in good faith when they authorized the illegal transfer of the funds,” the COA said.

    The decision was signed by COA chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Toland C. Pondoc.