SAN Juan, Batangas Vice Mayor Octavio Antonio L. Marasigan and six other municipal officials have been cleared by the Commission on Audit of any liability in relation to the disallowance against the purchase of a service vehicle worth P1.36 million in 2016 without prior authority from the Department of Interior and Local Government.
The COA Commission Proper granted the petition for review filed by the municipal officials challenging the 2016 ruling of the COA region 4A that affirmed the notice of disallowance.
Originally held liable together with Marasigan were municipal accountant Arlen Sayat, municipal budget officer Marissa Quijano, assistant municipal engineer Pedro Buela, municipal civil registrar Jose Hans Nera, administrative assistant Meynardo Laraya, and social welfare officer Estrella Ricero.
All seven were excused by the Commission Proper citing lack of evidence that the municipal government suffered any loss or damage from the transaction.
“The purchase of the motor vehicle was supported by existing appropriation and available funds and was done following the require procurement process under Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Law),” the COA noted.
Records showed the Sangguniang Bayan approved the purchase of a service vehicle in 2014 with an appropriation of P1.42 million. However, public biddings scheduled on April 10 and 30, 2014 failed when no supplier showed up to participate.
The municipal council then issued Resolution No. 039-2014 declaring a failure of bidding and authorizing resort to an alternative mode of procurement via canvassing for the lowest price.
Of the three Hyundai van suppliers canvassed, Hyundai Alabang Inc. offered the lowest price of P1.361 million for a Starex GL 10-seater with a 2.5 liter engine.
The purchase was disallowed on audit, however, after auditors found that the BAC failed to secure prior authority from the DILG.
“This lack of authority was admitted by the petitioners who claimed ignorance of this requirement. Thus, the transaction was correctly disallowed for being an irregular expenditure,” the COA pointed out.
However, the commission said the action of the municipal officials deserve consideration in view of local autonomy guaranteed under Section 25, Article 2 and Section 2 and 3, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution as well as RA 7160 or the Local Government Code.
It said the procurement may be allowed despite lack of prior approval from the DILG on “equitable grounds”, noting that the vehicle was delivered in good condition and benefited the municipality.
The decision dated December 9, 2019 set aside the ruling of the COA region 4A and ordered the notice of disallowance lifted.