April 18, 2024

The Benguet Electric Cooperative’s taking concrete moves to recover the utility’s funds used for the personal consumption of some employees and former directors, dating to as far back as 20 years ago, is long overdue but is still a welcome development.
For many years, issues about how finances of the cooperative are being managed have hounded Beneco, which is one of the country’s outstanding electric cooperatives.
In response, Beneco has devised various ways to explain how it operates. Different platforms have also been utilized to continually educate the public, not only about its operations but the electric industry in general.
The thousand members and consumers think the utility has somehow succeeded in increasing public trust to them. But this does not mean that issues that demanded resolution should be swept under the rug.
And we are glad that public clamor has been heard and major reforms are now being initiated. As it is widely viewed that Beneco has become a stepping stone to propel the political ambition of directors using their individual allotments, the National Electrification Administration’s move that all social projects shall be handled and screened by the Institutional Services Department based on a criteria of what projects may be funded is a move that will help insulate the utility from insinuations that it is being used as a political platform.
Beneco’s issuance of demand letters to former officials to recoup the funds used for personal purposes and the possibility of bringing the matter to court is also something to look forward to. Those who are accountable should be answerable to the members and consumers.
We hope too that Beneco will be more judicious in managing its funds, especially those concerning the financial benefit of directors, employees, department heads, and when availing of loans where consumers will ultimately bear the payment.
But it should not end there. We also challenge NEA to make public the transactions entered into by its appointed general manager. It is not enough that reforms are made but dealings of its past appointee are kept under the guise of confidentiality of information.
Also, focus should not be on Beneco only but other public utilities such as the Baguio Water District, which until now chose to keep silent about the Commission on Audit reports about its operations.
In 2021 alone, the COA said the BWD disregarded an earlier directive from the state audit to stop passing resolutions that granted allowances to officials and employees. These allowances have been disallowed but BWD continued to release these allowances which ballooned over P390 million covering 1999 to 2021.
Not a single word was heard from the BWD about what it has done about these disallowances. As a utility, BWD also owes its clients an explanation.
The call for transparency and accountability should not be on government offices only, but also for utility companies where the public entrust their monies for reliable and efficient water and electric connections.