On July 29, Rappler posted an article about the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on how Tacloban City spent the millions of pesos of rehabilitation fund and how the said report found irregularities on the city’s spending. However, former Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez released a statement denying that funds were misspent.
Rappler wrote a story on the COA report released on July 27. The social news site noted the following COA findings:
- Irregularities amounting to P907.65 million for infrastructure, aquaculture, and emergency shelter assistance projects
- 31 incomplete infrastructure projects, such as construction or repair of mini-gyms and barangay halls as of February 3, 2016 and the need to impose penalties (as per the Government Procurement Reform Act) for the contractors handling P100.23 million worth of projects slated under the Recovery Assistance for Yolanda (RAY)
- Suspension 19 projects amounting to P46.53 million due to reasons such as plan changes and construction in “no-build zones”
- Missed deadlines and poor planning of the P32.55 million Mariculture Park Rehabilitation Program for fishermen
- The City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) did not follow the guidelines of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) program by awarding assistance to families that are not eligible beneficiaries of the program
For the ESA program, the CSWDO head told COA auditors that some families did not provide “true information” during their assessment. The COA report also noted that the same official said that the DSWD management should give assistance to all Tacloban residents “because the city was totally devastated and now almost all of the area is a no dwelling zone.”
COA, however, insisted on the city government sticking to the guidelines in choosing the eligible beneficiaries of ESA. The auditing agency also urged those who don’t pass the said guidelines to submit proof of eligibility after receiving assistance, or reimburse the amount that they received.
No misspending, says Romualdez
On July 30, Romualdez denied that the Tacloban City government has misspent the Yolanda rehabilitation funds and called Rappler’s story as misleading in a statement found here.
“It is unfortunate that an online media agency such as Rappler would resort to such a misleading story that is far from what the actual audit report actually says,” Romualdez said in his statement.
The link to the COA report can be found here. Those who want to read it can easily click on the “View PDF” button for “Tacloban City.”
“We reiterate that the City Government of Tacloban has always and still continue to observe the standards of transparency and accountability over its funds including the Yolanda rehabilitation funds,” Romualdez said.
He also scored Rappler for concluding that COA’s report meant misspending on the part of Tacloban City.
“Ang malungkot pa po dito ay ang sinasabi pa ng Rappler ay kung hindi raw naming naiparating at naipararamdam ang ibinigay na pera para sa aming mga tao kasi winaldas daw ng City Government. Eh kung tutuusin kaya nga kami nasita eh kasi binigay po naming ang nararapat ang talaga na para sa kanila,” Romualdez said.
The former mayor also talked about the delay in the disbursement of the funds for the Yolanda victims and how hard it was for them to get the assistance intended for them.
“Katulad ng Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) na dapat naman talaga ay ibigay sa mga taong nasiraan o nawalan ng bahay. Ang masakit pa po dito, ang tagal na nga bago pa nagrelease ng pondo para sa mga beneficiaries na mga biktima ng Yolanda sa Tacloban na umabot ng mahigit sa isang taon pa, ay mas pinapahirapan pa at pinadaan sa butas ng karayom para lang makatanggap ng perang inilaan naman talaga para sa kanila. Sa totoo lang, the guidelines were set by the national government and we merely implemented it and followed it as applicable under our circumstances,” he said.
“As a Mayor and an elected local government executive, my primary duty is to my constituents, the very people who elected me as Mayor,” Romualdez concluded.