Calamity fund balances questioned-A A +A
Thursday, October 31, 2013
ONLY P17 million of Cebu City’s P202 million calamity fund for this year has been spent so far and the expenditures included P13 million worth of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and the salary of job-order employees.
The manner of spending the calamity fund became the subject of scrutiny by the City Council during an executive session yesterday.
Councilor Gerardo Carillo warned the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CCDRRMC) of a possible anti-graft case if they fail to be transparent.
Councilor Margarita Osmeña noted that the disaster risk reduction and management office did not immediately submit a utilization report of the calamity fund despite repeated requests by the City Council.
Councilor Nida Cabrera also pointed out that this year’s calamity fund was used for the salary of job-order employees who are allegedly assigned in other City Hall departments.
This promoted Cabrera to ask for a separate report on job-order personnel under the disaster risk reduction and management office.
The City Council also noted that there is P105 million in unspent calamity fund from previous years.
The City Council committee on budget and finance, chaired by Osmeña, discovered that the purchase of 20 CCTV cameras has been funded by the calamity fund.
“The CCTVs were not part of the (disaster risk reduction and management) program so why was it charged under the calamity fund?” asked Osmeña.
CCDRRMC operations officer Alvin Santillana said there was a “reprogramming” and the CCTV cameras were included in the budget.
But Osmeña said this was not reflected in the utilization report.
Santillana said that this may be because the CCDRRMC report was as of July 30.
Osmeña said the balance from previous years’ calamity fund should be placed in a trust fund.
The councilors said it can be used to rebuild the Cebu City Medical Center, which was damaged by the Oct. 15 earthquake, or other urgent projects.
Santillana said the CCDRRMC was prevented from spending the calamity fund because the City Council did not approve its disaster program.
Osmeña said that had Santillana’s office submitted regular utilization reports, the council would have approved the program.
“The important thing is to pass the utilization report or any reprograming to the Council, which controls the disbursement. You can be charged with an anti-graft case if you don't inform us of any reprograming,” Carillo warned Santillana during the City Council’s executive session yesterday.
Carillo said that when Santillana was under the jurisdiction of the social services committee, he was required to submit regular reports.
Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella invoked transparency and accountability.
Osmeña expressed confusion over who heads the disaster risk reduction and management office.
Santillana served as executive director until he was replaced by Department Head Catherine Yso between 2012 and 2013. Simeon Romoarate assumed the post when Mayor Michael Rama got another term last July.
Romarate refused to attend the City Council’s executive session yesterday, saying he is not privy to the use of the calamity fund prior to his assumption of office.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 31, 2013.