By Ben Rosario
The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged various procurement activities of the provincial government of Ilocos Norte for allegedly failing to follow provisions of the Government Procurement Act.
In the recently released 2018 Annual Audit Report for Ilocos Norte, a team of COA auditors also reported that provincial officials violated auditing rules when it hired private lawyers although the province had its own legal officer.
Auditors also noted that three agricultural facilities built by the provincial government with funds totaling P21,165,683.73 have remained “unutilized and idle for many years, thus exposing them to deterioration and potential obsolescense”.
The same audit report noted that the provincial government failed to implement some P29.8 million worth of socio-economic projects that were listed from 2011 to 2016.
“The plan of the province to develop the leased Convent Ruins of Paoay into a commercial and tourism area was not yet implemented, thus, depriving the province of the additional income that could be derived therefrom,” COA observed.
The province has already spent P2,565,290 in rental payment since 2015 when it entered into a contract to lease the property owned by the Diocese of Laoag.
The audit findings were brought to the attention of incumbent Governor Imee Marcos and Ilocos Norte officials who vowed to address the issues raised by auditors.
“Some procurmenet activities of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) were completed and awarded to winning bidders when some pertinent provisions of RA 9184 were not followed, thus casting doubts on the propriety of the evaluation and award of contracts of programs and projects of the agency,” the COA report stated.
Auditors observed “misapplication” of alternative methods of procurement in the contracting of workers who rendered services for the 2018 Tan-Ok Festival.
According to audit examiners the eligibility of suppliers in certain procurement activities were not properly evaluated, thus, resulting the award of contracts to “non-complying bidders.”
The provincial government said the audit observations referred to 2017 procurements that have been addressed by exercising more prudence in the review of submitted bids.
“The province, in spite of having its own legal officer, hired the services of legal consultants contrary to COA Circular No. 98-002 dated June 9, 1998, thus, additional costs were incurred for legal services,” the audit report revealed.
The audit team, COA said, “could not find any valid reason” that would have justified the hiring of legal consultants.
Provincial officials said they hired legal consultants to help the provincial legal officer with the “voluminous workload”.
COA disclosed that the provincial government failed to implement some P29.8 million in Development Fund worth of socio-economic projects scheduled from 2011 to 2016. This affected the “timely delivery of vital services and benefits” to its constituents.
Auditors asked local officials to revisit the projects and identify those that must be implemented, adding that projects no longer implementable should be abandoned.
The provincial government allocated P21.16 million for the establishment of a rice mill, tobacco curing barn and feed mill, but was unable to use these agricultural facilities due to lack of operational funds and the high cost of fuel.
State auditors called for an assessment of the facilities to determine whether or not these can be leased out or operated.
“If impossible for utilization, make the necessary step for disposal toa void further deterioration and loss of additional income that may be derived from sale or negotiation,” the COA suggested.