May 24, 2024

It was a lesson learned the hard way and it will never happen again, the chair of the city government’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) said in reaction to the Commission on Audit’s disallowance on the ongoing construction of the youth center at the Athletic Bowl.

In its 2022 report, the COA said the city government of Baguio has violated procedures in the disbursement of the P25 million out of the P50M counterpart fund from the Department of Public Works and Highways.

In a press conference last Aug. 2, City Administrator and BAC chair Bonifacio dela Peña said it was a mistake to have certified that the youth convergence center and the multipurpose building as one and the same as this resulted in the disallowance and imperiled the release of the balance of the funds.

In the city’s annual investment plan, the city government allotted P300M for the project where P50M will come from the national government through the DPWH. An initial P25M has already been released but the balance cannot be released due to the disallowance.

Despite this, dela Peña said they will ask the COA to reconsider its disallowance report, as he claimed the city has proposed a solution to the COA but could not disclose until it has become final. He guaranteed however the project will proceed and the contractor will be paid upon accomplishment of the project by June 2024.

He said the city has funds in the event the DPWH insists the project title has to be followed based on the COA report. 

In its report, the COA said the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the memorandum of agreement between the city and DPWH that spelled out where the P50M allocation should be used for has not been followed.

According to the report, the city’s BAC for Infrastructure reportedly passed a resolution that “clustered” the DPWH project with that of the city government’s youth convergence center and indoor sports complex and confirmed that the two projects are “one and the same”. 

The COA said the disbursement voucher stated the P25M was for the payment of the partial billing of the multipurpose building project, but the contract attached to it already included the construction of the youth convergence center and indoor sports complex.

The COA added it appeared the contract that contained the construction of the youth center “was just drawn to support the payment of the first partial billing of the DPWH project.”

Because of this lapse, the COA said there was no procurement or implementation undertaken by the city government for the DPWH-funded construction of multipurpose building at Athletic Bowl.

“The initial fund transfer received from the DPWH for the construction of multipurpose building was actually used to pay the alleged progress billing of the city project: construction of a youth center and sports complex and Baguio City Youth Convergence Center and Indoor Sports Complex, in violation of the SARO,” the COA report stated. – Rimaliza A. Opiña