CEBU CITY -- Even before they can leave for a four-day training seminar in Boracay Island, some 80 officials of the Cebu City Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) are facing questions regarding the trip.

At P15,000 per participant, a Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) official and some barangay officials find the travel and seminar expenses too big, and asked the SK Federation to justify the trip.

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Among the questions they asked is why the SK chairman and councilors of the different barangays have to go to the island resort of Boracay in Aklan Province for a seminar on promoting the welfare of the youth and children.

“Some of the barangay captains are concerned about their expenses, which might be disallowed by COA (the Commission on Audit) because they are spending a lot to go to Boracay for a training. If they get a disallowance, we will have a hard time getting approval for our SK budget for next year. That’s what worries the barangay officials,” said Basak San Nicolas Barangay Captain George Rama.

Five of his SK councilors are joining the trip, and will pay P15,000 each using their SK funds, he said.

The amount is beyond the limit set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the trainings of barangay and SK officials, which is P2,000 a day, which is why the barangay captains warned of a disallowance by COA.

Cebu City SK Federation president Rengelle Pelayo, an ex-officio member of the Cebu City Council, justified the trip, saying it will be an opportunity for them to learn about youth and children’s welfare.

“This is capability building for the City’s SK. Whatever will be our output during the seminar, we will be echoing this to those who will not be able to join. Although our term will end by October, I think it will still be useful... It will also be a chance for us to get together, it will be a farewell gathering of sorts,” she said.

She clarified that only the P2,000 a day or P8,000 for four days out of the P9,400 seminar fee will be charged to the SK funds of the barangays, after the Cebu City auditor reminded them of the limitations on training expenses.

After discussing the matter with the Commission on Audit (COA) officials Wednesday, Pelayo said that she and some SK officials agreed that anything in excess of the P8,000 will be for the personal account of the participant.

They also met with the seminar organizers last night to work out an arrangement and adjustment of the seminar fees to comply with the DBM rules.

Cebu City auditor Attorney Eva Cabrera declined from commenting on the SK officials’ trip, saying the documents have not reached their office yet because they don’t conduct a pre-audit of the transactions of the SK and the barangays.

She reminded the participants, though, to follow the limitations set by the DBM and other government agencies.

“The transactions that could be disallowed are those that are illegal, excessive, unnecessary, unconscionable and extravagant, and among those that have to be considered is the venue. They will just have to comply with the limitations,” Cabrera told Sun.Star Cebu.

She added that the participants will also have to justify their expenses and show that the trip was not extravagant or unnecessary.

The trip was planned amid the suggestions of some lawmakers to abolish the SK for being irrelevant, and amid calls to postpone the SK elections until the organization can be restructured.

“We have submitted the documents to the accounting office last July yet, or even earlier. If were told earlier that it is not allowed or the expenses are too much, we would not have pushed through with it. The checks for the seminar expenses were already released so we thought everything is in order... It’s too late to back out now, most of us already have our plane tickets,” said Pelayo.

Pelayo said they were invited by Marywoods Training Center to attend the seminar at La Carmela de Boracay Resort Hotel from Aug. 28 to 31. She said it was the organizer, not the SK officials, who initiated the training and chose the venue.

As of Wednesday, 76 SK chairman and councilors have registered to join the activity.

Most of the participants have already paid for the full seminar fee and have purchased their airline tickets, but Pelayo admitted they still don’t have an authority to travel from the DILG.

DILG Cebu City Director Patricio Gabuya said he advised Pelayo to secure the authority from their regional office to avoid any disallowance by COA.

“The regional director would issue authorization for their travel and upon application, they will have to explain that the use of government funds is justifiable. Dako-dako ra ba gyud ang ilang gasto, that is why I told Rengelle to be sure to ask for authorization,” Gabuya said.

The seminar fee of P9,400 covers the snacks, seminar kits and payment for the speakers and venue for the training.

Pelayo said they were informed by the City Accounting Office that a seminar participant is entitled to only P1,200 a day for their seminar fees and P800 for their per diem, which they intend to use for their accommodations and meals.

The seminar on “Enhancing Barangay and SK Administration” will tackle youth, children and environmental issues. The invited speakers are from DILG central office and the National Youth Commission.

Even if they will be relinquishing their post to a new set of SK officials after the SK elections this October, Pelayo said the seminar is not ill-timed since they will pass on what they learn to their successors. (Linette C. Ramos of Sun.Star Cebu)