CEBU City's Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials revised their agreement and the fees charged by the organizer of their seminar in Boracay Island in compliance with budget rules and to avoid a possible disallowance by the Commission on Audit (COA).

SK Federation President Rengelle Pelayo, an ex-officio member of the City Council, assured they will follow the budget circular limiting the seminar fees to P1,200 a day for each participant.

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But even if budget rules are complied with, City Councilor Margarita Osmeña said the SK should be discouraged from going to other provinces for trainings that can be done here in Cebu to avoid unnecessary expenses and to allow more SK officials to attend.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for them to go to Boracay for that. Since it’s too late and we’ll only be throwing away money if we cancel it, maybe in the future they should not. If it can be done here, then do it here. I think there are a lot of seminar venues here that are more conducive for training, unless it’s just for rest and recreation,” the councilor said.

Pelayo said they will make sure all their expenses can be justified, and only those that are necessary would be charged to the SK funds.

After learning about the limitations on seminar expenses, she asked the seminar organizer to adjust the training package so they can meet the amount set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The seminar organizer originally charged the SK P9,400 per participant for the meals, accommodations, seminar kits and speakers’ fees.

But after being reminded by the City Accounting Office and COA the other day on the limitations set by the DBM, Pelayo said Marywoods Training Center agreed to lower the seminar fee to P4,800 for the four-day training, so they can stay within the P1,200 a day limit.

National Budget Circular 486 states the registration fee for seminars of government employees and officials should not exceed P1,200 a day per participant, “and any amount in excess of the prescribed rate shall be at the expense of the participant.

The reduced seminar fee, however, would cover only the seminar kit and venue, snacks and the facilitators and speaker’s honorarium.

Pelayo said they would just use their P800 per diem to cover their meals and accommodations in guest houses in the resort island of Boracay in Aklan Province.

“It’s really too late to back out so we have no choice but to push through with the seminar and just comply with the budget and audit rules. And I told all the participants that if their expenses are not supported by official documents and receipts, the participant is bound to shoulder the expense. Any excess will also have to be returned to the SK funds,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.

Yesterday afternoon, the councilor gathered the 76 SK officials who will join the seminar on Aug. 28 to 31 to brief them on the last-minute changes.

She reiterated that they can justify their trip since they would be given training and workshop on promoting the welfare of children and the youth.

As for questions on why the training has to be conducted in Boracay, she said this is also a chance for the SK councilors who are not compensated to have fun.

“Some people might think na naglaag-laag lang mi but I can say that Cebu City SK is not like the SK of other cities. We also make sure that we will learn something from this trip before we have fun, and that we would be able to share the learning with our successors,” Pelayo said.

Rep. Tomas Osmena (Cebu City, south district), who questioned the priorities of the SK when he was mayor, also asked why the SK are holding the seminar now that their term of office is coming to a close.

“These seminars should be given at the start of their term, not at the end,” he said.

Mayor Michael Rama said he does not find anything wrong with the SK officials’ trip, especially since it is not the first time that SK officials would go out of town. It would be an opportunity for the youth leaders to go to the world renowned beaches of the island.

The mayor pointed out the barangay officials and city councilors have gone to Boracay and other provinces countless times to attend similar trainings and seminars.