NEA dismisses Zambo electric co-op GM, 8 directors

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/15 June) – The National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators, after an exhaustive investigation, has dismissed the general manager of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (Zamcelco) and members of its board of directors for alleged repeated violations of NEA issuances and regulations.

NEA’s eight-page decision is based on the motu propio investigation of Zamcelco triggered by the adverse NEA audit findings covering the period September 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.

Ordered dismissed were general manager Reinerio Ramos, and Zamcelco directors Rolando Gregorio, Tito Espiritusanto, Leomir Toribio, Aida Loong, Ronald Maravilla, Emias Alviar and outgoing directors Noel Tarrazona and Alexis Ortega.

The NEA Board of Administrators also stated in its decision that “as necessary consequence of the penalty of removal, pursuant to section 3, rule VII of the Rules of Procedure of the NEA, the said respondents–Zamcelco management and board (in office from Sept. 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010) are perpetually disqualified from holding office in any rural electric cooperative.”

The NEA also stated in its decision, a copy of which was furnished to Mayor Celso Lobregat, that the retirement benefits of Ramos, as the general manager, have been forfeited.

Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary and NEA chairman Jose Rene Almendras, NEA Board of Administrators Jose Victor Lobrigo, Wilbert Billena, Joseph Khonghum and Edita Bueno signed the decision  last May 25.

Lobregat said the decision immediately took effect and that engineer Jesus Castro, the NEA designated project supervisor, has been named acting general manager.

The mayor said he was informed that NEA will appoint members of the board of Zamcelco to sit in an acting capacity, in order to obtain a quorum during meetings and other important forums.

He, however, said the local government will be consulted on the appointments.

With the NEA decision, the only elected members left in the board are Elbert Atilano, Efren Perez, Agustin Graciano, Jr. and consumer representative Sonny Navarro.

Docketed as NEA Administrative Case No. 02-12-10, the case has the Multi-Sectoral Movement for Better Zamcelco (MBZ) as intervenors when Lobregat requested several months ago the agency to investigate Zamcelco following mounting complaints of alleged anomalous transactions.

Lobregat’s request led to the NEA’s comprehensive audit report that caused the Zamcelco management and board to come up with justifications.

However, the electric cooperative audit department (ECAD) found the justifications unable to explain fully the seven audit findings.

These include the acquisition through negotiated purchase of a 10-MVA substation in the amount of P33 million or almost P10 million more than the 2010 NEA price index of P24.46 million; acquisition of 34 units KIA vehicles (20 in 2009 and 14 in 2010), 10 of which are luxury vehicles; penalty of P129,000 by the Energy Regulatory Commission in May 2010 for implementing capital expenditures projects without ERC approval; acquisition of a Talon-Talon lot at P2,500 per square meter for a total amount of P2.5 million; love fund drive for board officials and general manager of P20,000 each per board resolution 368-09 dated November 21, 2009; acquisition of light and sound band equipment from Park 88 in the amount of P1.2 million and very weak internal control system particularly releases of materials to area offices.

Since the justifications made by the Zamcelco management were found insufficient, the ECAD director recommended to the NEA administrator the conduct by the Audit Committee of a motu propio investigation of the electric cooperative that resulted in the May 25, 2011 decision.

The probe findings centered on the acquisition of the Kia vehicles without NEA approval in violation of the agency’s rules and regulations.

“Violation/non-compliance to NEA issuances, memoranda and other rules and regulations carry with it the penalty of suspension for 31 to 90 days, for first infraction thereof. A repeated commission of the same offense warrants the imposition of the supreme penalty of removal on account of the seeming disregard of the tenor of the NEA’s letters relative to the purchase of the said KIA vehicle’s,” the finding stated. (MindaNews)