COA questions fund release to fire-hit barangays

THE Cebu City Council’s declaration of a state of calamity in some fire-hit areas in the city in 2019 was not valid.

According to the Commission on Audit (COA) in the Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) it sent the council, some criteria were not met.

The City declared a state of calamity in 13 areas that were stricken by fire last year.

The COA said financial assistance amounting to P20.8 million was charged to the City’s 30 percent Quick Response Fund (QRF) “even though these barangays were not under a state of calamity.”

For a state of calamity to be declared, the COA said the fire must affect at least 20 percent of the population; destroy at least 40 percent of the means of livelihood of the survivors, such as bancas, fishing boats, vehicles and the like; and destroy major roads and bridges and make them impassable for at least a week.

Other conditions that should be present are widespread destruction of crops, fishponds, poultry and livestock and other agricultural products; disruption of lifelines such as electricity, potable water system, transport system, communications system and other related system which cannot be restored within a week, except for highly urbanized areas where restoration of the above lifelines cannot be made within 24 hours.

The declaration of the state of calamity was done by the council through a resolution.

However, even if the council complied with this requirement, the COA said it was still not valid since the conditions set were not met, adding that the financial assistance should not have been charged to the QRF.

Mayor Edgardo Labella said the COA’s observation still has to be studied, while Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, the council’s majority floor leader, refused to comment as he has yet to read the report. (JJL)


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