Rushed P31M for repairs, roads hit
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Provincial officials here on Wednesday denounced the alleged “railroading” of the passage of two ordinances by the provincial board allocating more than P31 million for the concreting of roads and various repairs of facilities at the provincial capitol compound.
Board member Patricio Dumlao Jr. accused colleagues in the majority bloc of defrauding the people of Nueva Vizcaya by authorizing the release of funds without following rules laid down by law.
Despite protests from the opposition, the board here on Wednesday approved two measures separately allowing the release of more than P22 million and P9 million, supposedly upon the request of Gov. Luisa Cuaresma for a number of projects she considered “urgent”.
SP members who are Cuaresma’s allies in the board ignored Dumlao’s requests that the ordinance specify the amounts to be allocated for each project, and that official documents be presented to prove that it underwent proper procedure as required by the Local Government Code.
Bulk of the amount, totalling P15 million, was earmarked for the concreting of four provincial roads and one item indicated only as “other provincial roads”, without specifying the amounts that would be spent for each.
More than P8 million was also set aside to fund “various repairs”, including four pairs of “stinking” comfort rooms at the capitol compound.
Board member Edgardo Balgos confirmed that the comfort rooms at the capitol have been the subject of numerous complaints from visitors because of the foul odor emanating from them.
But Dumlao assailed the “swift” approval of the fund ordinance despite failure of the proponent, board member Efren Quiben, to prove that the projects to be funded were urgent.
SP records showed that Cuaresma wrote the SP on Tuesday; the board approved the ordinance Wednesday.
“Is the concreting of roads near the town centers urgent, when there are other roads in far-flung areas that need these funds? Or is the fencing of the capitol compound, the repair of (comfort rooms) or purchase of Christmas decors urgent?” he asked.
Board members questioned why a road concreting project in Barangay Lantap in Bagabag town was included in the funding even if it was not considered a priority.
In response, Quiben said the project was personally requested to be funded by Mayor Nestor Sevillena of Bagabag town, who, as president of the League of Mayors in the province, is one of the five members of the executive committee of the provincial development council.
Dumlao lamented how the provincial board has developed the reputation of passing ordinances that are “bereft of transparency and depriving taxpayers of their right to know how public money is being spent”.
“The last time, we (in the SP) were widely criticized because nobody claimed responsibility for the erroneous documents that were used as bases for the approval of a previous ordinance. This is public money and procedures have been laid down for us to follow,” he said.
He was referring to the “anomalous” passage of another ordinance in September that allowed for the release of around P4.7 million to pay for the salaries of around 250 casual employees in the province.
The board passed the measure despite Dumlao’s accusations supporting documents were riddled with errors, and that the amount allocated included salaries for a number of former provincial employees that have either retired, resigned, or were terminated.
For his part, Quiben said the provincial government has been practising “lump sum appropriation”, or that which allocates an entire amount for several project without specifying the budget for each to allow for flexibility in the use of such funds.
“There were experiences in the past when we (listed) the specific amounts, and if project has not yet been completed, it (was) difficult to use (funds set aside for other projects). So now, there will be no identification,” Quiben said.
He denied that any attempts to railroad the passage of the ordinances, adding that the measures were only meant to implement Cuaresma’s “momentum of development” before the end of the year.
The board member also justified the purchase of Christmas decorations worth P200,000.
“(This is) because Christmas in the air, and we do not put Christmas lights on December 25. This early we have to beautify the capitol grounds, uplift it and I believe that these Christmas lights would add beauty to the ever-increasing ambience of the capitol,” Quiben said.