Expense for fresh fruits served at official meeting not unnecessary expense –COA

Published September 10, 2019, 4:02 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Ben Rosario

Using government funds to serve fresh fruits during an official meeting cannot be considered unnecessary expense and is not prohibited, the highest decision-making body of the Commission on Audit ruled recently.

Fresh fruits harvested from Cebu City’s mountain barangays are made available by the Cebu City local government to consumers at affordable prices at the Farmer’s Market in Plaza Sugbo. (Juan Carlo De Vela)
Fresh fruits displayed at a public market. (Juan Carlo De Vela / MB FILE PHOTO )

In a recently-released decision, the three-man COA-Commission Proper cleared officials of the Compostela Valley State College of any liability in the reimbursement of P6,000 worth of fresh fruits served during a board of trustees meeting in 2013.

The panel headed by COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo also lifted the notice of disallowance (ND) for the reimbursement that was made final by the COA RO XI regional director.

The COA-CP conducted an automatic review of RO XI’s regional chief’s decision issued on May 30, 2017 even as Dr. Jesus Antonio Derije, then president and officer-in-charge of CVSC, appealed the finalized ND.

COA records showed that Derije and the interim board of trustees conducted the first board meeting on November 26, 2013 at Park Inn by Radisson in Lanang, Davao City.

Expenses for the board meeting of the newly-created CVSC were audited, with audit examiners deciding to disallow as “unnecessary expenses” the disbursement of P6,000 for the cost o f fresh fruits served during the event.

Acting on the recommendation for the issuance of ND, the audit team leader, supervising auditor and finally, the director of COA XI  approved it .

Held liable were Derije, for approving the payment; accountants Niel Vincent C. Banares and Kim Balocal, Jonathan Bayogan, current OIC-president; and board secretary Janice Hermosilla.

The COA XI chief later amended the ND by clearing Bayogan and Baloca.  However, the audit official included Lucelia Paqueo and Jessie Burog, acting budget officer and finance officer, respectively, as among those to be held liable.

Upon review, the COA-CP noted that the expenses during the 2013 meeting were charged to the representation expenses of the CVSC officials.

The panel cited COA Circular No. 2004-008 providing that representation expenses cover expenditures for official meetings, conferences and entertainment.

“In this case, the reimbursement falls under this category since the said fruits were given to the members of the BOT on the occasion of their official meeting,” the COA-CP ruled.

The  quasi-judicial body added:  “Thus, the ND may be lifted, considering that the subject reimbursement was valid, proper and regular and the amount involved was not excessive.”