COA flags Bulacan’s P561M donations on questions of propriety


    THE Commission on Audit (COA) is taking a hard look at fund releases amounting to more than half a billion pesos made by the provincial government of Bulacan to individuals, non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs) and local government units (LGUs) citing lack of documentation, monitoring, and proof of accomplishment.

    Government auditors said the disbursements were listed under the “Donations” account which reached P561,416,679 as of yearend 2019.

    Cash assistance payouts ranged from P2,000 to P35,000 for individuals; P10,000 to P100,000 for LGUs; and P10,000 to P1 million for NGOs.

    Without any mechanism or standards for screening who are qualified to receive the cash assistance, auditors said it all came down to the “padrino” system to determine how much the requesting party ended up receiving.

    “The amount given to the NGOs, CSOs, LGUs and individuals rested alone on the discretion of the local chief executive. This somehow created undue favors to those who have relatives and strong ties with those who hold positions in the PBG (provincial government of Bulacan),” they said.

    Other than donations for medical, burial and education purposes, the COA said it found no proof that the rest of the financial assistance disbursements were related to pro-poor programs or the delivery of basic services to residents of the province.

    The audit team cited insufficient documentation, absence of a detailed description of the projects funded, and incomplete liquidation reports even if the memorandum of agreement between the provincial government and the recipient required submission of such disclosures as well as return of any amount unspent.

    “Based on interview and review of records maintained by the concerned offices, there was no monitoring and validation whether the projects requested for funding… were fulfilled.

    Verification was only done whenever the grantee requested for another round of financial assistance,” it said.

    A sample list attached to the audit report showed among the recipients were the National Movement of Young Legislators which was given P200,000 for a general assembly held on March 21 to 22, 2019 at the Widus Hotel and Casino in Pampanga, and the Bulacan Sports Council Federation Inc. which received P1.28 million on June 11, 2019 and P942,960 on July 22, 2019 for attending competitions in Jakarta, Indonesia and Washington and Delaware in the United States, respectively.