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Rough Cuts | The COA report on the city

During last Tuesday’s session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Councilor Bonifacio Militar, a lawyer, seemed to have found his match in Councilor Alberto Ungab, an engineer and a first-termer. The latter though, has a one-term stint in Congress as representative of Davao City’s third congressional district.

In last Tuesday’s SP session, Ungab was the presiding officer. The council had some invited guests from the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) to shed light on the complaints of patients’ relatives that the only government tertiary hospital in the city is so wanting in bed capacity that they have to wait for hours — even days — before their infirmed kin are admitted.

When it was interpellation time our good friend Boni took the floor to question the guest from SPMC, a head of a department at the hospital. The first district councilor immediately directed his question to the guest. It was at this juncture that his attention was called by Presiding Officer Ungab who advised him to address his question to the chair instead of directly to the guest.

Councilor Boni appeared to be “stung” by the rebuff. So he asked the chair if the call was a new rule in the City Council. The engineer-councilor, however, refused to be “cowed” down by his veteran colleague. He answered that it was a simple and proper implementation of parliamentary procedures.

Ungab also showed his ability to note potential sources of disagreement during sessions. He immediately banged the gavel and called for a recess. The former congressman knew that when the first district councilor asked whether Ungab’s action is a “new rule” in the Council he sensed that it could trigger a long debate that could waste precious time.

It was during the recess that the issue was expertly threshed out and Ungab had his way — the correct way in parliamentary deliberations.

Indeed the third district congressman learned a lot of lessons from his three-year experience in an oftentimes chaotic Congress sessions and committee hearings.

We hope that our neophyte councilors, be they lawyers or non-lawyers, learn a lesson or two from that small dynamics and the way it was resolved without getting into some verbal calisthenics in the session hall.

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Kudos to the City Government of Davao and its officials!

The local government has accomplished quite a feat when, according to the Commission on Audit (COA), it has implemented some 80 percent of the Commission’s recommendations to straighten up some mess in the utilization and management of the city’s material and financial resources.

According to the COA the so-called “red flags” were discovered in its audit of the local government in the years going back to as early as 2013. The findings by the state auditors of the substantial compliance of its recommendations were included in its 176-page annual audit report (AAR) for the year 2018. As of the 2017 audit there were a total of 35 recommendations made to reconcile book records against physical inventories of items/assets as well as supporting documents. Of the 35 audit recommendations there were six that were partially implemented, and one was not.

COA auditor assigned in the city, Gloria Canete, said in the report of this paper that there were five recommendations contained in the commission’s 2016 audit of the city that were not implemented at all. And one recommendation each in the 2013 and 2014 audit were not also complied with.

The government audit body attributed the city’s substantial compliance of its recommendations to the creation by the local government of an inventory committee. This body, according to the COA report, is the one now undertaking physical counts of supplies and materials, as well as inventory of infrastructure assets. The committee, the report said, submits every six months its findings reconciling supplies inventories and its supporting documents.

Somehow, however, there were findings in the 2018 audit that could raise alarm over the ability of some departments in the city to implement projects funded by other agencies especially from the national government.

How come the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) has not yet fully submitted an inventory of all donated and procured DRRMO items? How come the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) has to return to the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) the P64.65 million from the city’s 20 percent development fund in 2017? And what were these “various implementation issues” that the CEO has cited as its reasons?

The COA though, was quick in saying that in its 2018 audit the “issues” were already resolved. Nevertheless, we find it important that the COA should disclose what were those “various implementation Issues” so that the people of the city will know why risk reduction programs and projects have to be delayed when no one knows when disasters happen.

And then there was that amount of a little over half a million pesos from the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the establishment of an Ecological Solid Waste Management System. The grant was covered with a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to govern the implementation of the project that is to be funded by the EMB money.

The MOA include the project timetable of completion. Yet, the city has not been able to implement the same. Now it is asking for an authority to spend the money beyond the term provided in the MOA.

Question: What office in the city government was the project assigned for implementation? Why is it unable to implement the project as scheduled? And why did the city enter into a MOA with EMB-DENR when from the very start, it was not sure if it can accomplish the project on time?

Based on the COA report, the city has not even started the project. Is this a case of the city putting into the mouth “much more than it could chew?”

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