CDO city accountant: ‘We have answered COA on audit of donations for Sendong victims’

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/01 October) — The questions raised by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the appointment of the City Social Welfare and Development officer-in-charge as the receiver, custodian and distributor of relief goods and donations for victims of tropical storm Sendong have all been answered, the city accountant today said.

“We already addressed the questions posed by COA on Salon’s appointment,” city accountant Wilma Rugay said in an interview Monday. She did not elaborate.

In its 2011 Audit Report, state auditors found out that City Hall ignored its built-in counterchecking mechanism by making CSWD chief Nena Salon perform the three functions.

COA showed no written order but it said that Mayor Vicente Emano appointed Salon “to take custody of relief goods, in addition to her regular functions, thereby making her as accountable officer (custodian of relief goods) required to render report within the contemplation of law.”

When asked for comment Monday, Salon referred instead this reporter to Rugay.

This (Salon’s appointment) breached sound internal control measures since “receiving and distribution/delivery must be carried out separately,” COA said in the same audit report.

Aside from being the officer-in-charge of CSWD, Salon reportedly serves as lecturer in membership seminars of Emano’s Padayon Pilipino party.

 

A highly-placed source at City Hall—who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the matter—said Salon was in charge of receiving the donations and relief goods for only about a week since Emano had by then created a special committee for the relief operations.

 

“The mayor appointed Salon as a temporary receiver that time because donations and relief goods had started pouring in. But days after, Emano organized a committee because he wanted as many people to know how much donation and relief goods were coming in,” the source said.

 

“It was our best effort, considering the abruptness of the onslaught of the calamity. However, the essence of the procedures regarding donations and relief goods is to ensure the proper distribution and that the donations were spent according to its intention. We have done that,” the source added.

 

Worse, the appointment has “brushed aside the inherent function of the City General Services Officer (CGSO) to take custody of and be accountable for all properties, real or personal, owned by the local government unit and those granted to it in the form of donation, reparation, assistance and counter part of joint projects provided for in Section 490 of RA 7160 (Local Government Code), leaving the office then a mere spectator of the aftermath of disaster,” COA explained.

 

At first, CGSO officer-in-charge Zaida Tan-Nery refused to comment on COA’ observation.

 

But when it was mentioned to her that Section 490 of the Local Government Code provides that she should have been the receiver and caretaker of the relief goods and donations, Tan-Nery said that she “still respect(s) the decision of the mayor.”

 

“It is the mayor’s discretion,” she said in an interview Monday.

 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) said in the latest report posted on its website (http://www.fo10.dswd.gov.ph) that Cagayan de Oro has received a total amount of P225,628,074.75, of which P129,841,893.00 accounts for nonfood items and P95,786,181.75 for food items.

 

According to the same DSWD report, in this city alone, floods caused by Sendong damaged a total of 18,436 houses and killed 737 people. Moreover, 225 were injured and 555 have remained missing.

 

After almost one year since the tragedy struck, the CSWD has yet to submit its first inventory of the relief goods and donations it received to COA. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)

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