June 14, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The city government of Baguio has returned to the Bureau of Treasury the P25 million downloaded by the Department of Public Works and Highways-Baguio City District Engineering Office (DPWH-BCDEO) for the construction of a multipurpose building at the Athletic Bowl.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong first attempted to return the amount to the DPWH but the agency declined to accept the check citing that in the memorandum of agreement signed between the mayor and DPWH-Cordillera Khadafy Tanggol, joint inspection between the Commission on Audit and DPWH to determine acceptability has to be done first before return of the funds.

To date, the BCDEO and the COA has yet to inspect the project implemented by ME Sicat Construction.

The Midland Courier also learned that the mayor could not yet terminate the contract without authority from the city council.

The mayor remitted the amount directly to the Bureau of Treasury.

In a letter dated Feb. 28 to OIC National Treasurer Sharon Almanza, the mayor said the amount represents the “unutilized” funds for the project.

Records obtained by the Midland Courier however showed there have been progress billings charged against the amount, which means some funds have already been expended.

The P25M represents the first tranche of the P50M worth project funded by the national government, but which the COA said in its 2021 report that the amount was used instead for the “Youth Convergence Center and Indoor Sports Complex” at the Athletic Bowl – a project different from the multipurpose building requested from the national government.

In its report, the COA recommended for the city government to sign an amended MOA with the DPWH agreeing that the multipurpose building and youth center are one and the same.

The DPWH declined to sign an amended MOA as this would also entail amending the project title as contained in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Amending the GAA, on the other hand, would require legislative action.

The COA findings resulted in the DPWH not releasing the second tranche of the amount.

In an earlier interview, City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña said the city government will fund the completion of the youth center, instead of relying on funds allotted by the national government.