Exec body fails to attend session with council-A A +A
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
THE local finance committee found two excuses for again missing the executive session set the Cebu City Council yesterday: the sinking of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and the site inspection of possible venues for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings.
The local finance committee—composed of City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete as chairperson, City Budget Officer Nelfa Briones and City Treasurer’s Office caretaker Tessie Camarillo—was invited to the executive session to discuss the Commission on Audit’s (COA) assessment of Cebu City Hall’s financial reporting.
“The tragic incident had pre-occupied the executive department as we need to prioritize and channel our time and efforts in coordinating and assisting in the rescue and retrieval operations of the passengers of the ill-fated vessel,” read the letter of City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete, who heads the finance committee.
Councilor Margarita Osmeña, chairperson of the committee on budget and finance asked, if City Accountant Dies Cuevas is part of the rescue team since she also failed to attend the executive session.
Five COA 7 auditors attended the executive session and even arrived ahead of the councilors.
During the session, COA 7 Director Sabiniano Cabatuan said Cebu City has to address issues raised in audit report for 2012, such as the charging of public teachers’ bonuses on the Special Education Fund (SEF) and the salaries of job-order employees, which were charged to a budget that state auditors questioned.
Cabatuan said that if City Hall fails to justify these disbursements, teachers and job-order employees may be required to refund the amount they received. He added that those who authorized the charging of the funds will be held equally liable.
COA officials said that since 2011, Cebu City has been described by state auditors as having “adverse” financial statements.
This means the financial statements of the City are misleading, said State Auditor Cymbeline Celia Uy.
Before 2011, Cebu City’s financial statements were considered to have “qualified” under COA rules.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said, though, that the issues concerning the teachers’ bonus and the salaries of job-order workers have been answered.
But Sabiniano said it has been two months since the audit report was released to the City but the latter failed to reply.
The answer was supposed to be submitted within 30 days.
Rama’s reply was to ask the reason for COA’s questions: “What is this all about? Was there graft and corruption?”
When asked to comment on the “adverse” rating of Cebu City, the mayor pointed to the decision of the City Council to block the sale of the South Road Properties (SRP).
Rama wanted to sell SRP lots to increase the City Government’s revenues but the City Council passed an ordinance requiring the legislative body’s approval on the disposition of the reclaimed area.
Councilor Gerardo Carillo, who earlier threatened to sue the local finance committee it is still failed to attend the executive session, said he will give the body a chance because Poblete wrote, “We will endeavor to make ourselves available in the future.”
But in his press conference yesterday, the mayor said that it is he who decides if the local government committee should appear before the City Council.
Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella told Sun.Star Cebu he would be willing to make representation with Rama for the local finance committee to attend the third scheduled executive session next Wednesday.
The City Council also wants to postpone the Executive-Legislative Agenda scheduled tomorrow and Friday until the local finance committee submits a report on the City's finances.
An irked Rama asked which law requires this. He was not aware that the proposal was Labella’s.
Rama said he will postpone the Executive-Legislative Agenda not because the council asked him to, but because the executive branch at City Hall is busy helping out in the sea tragedy.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2013.