THE Commission on Audit (COA) is verifying claims by the Bogo city government that they didn’t receive any livelihood trainings from the office of Rep. Benhur Salimbangon of Cebu’s 4th district despite being listed as beneficiaries.
Susan Garcia, director of COA’s Special Audit Office, said they were told by Bogo City Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr. that the list provided by Salimbangon’s office, which included the city as a beneficiary, “was fictitious.”
The COA director wrote Mayor Martinez asking about Bogo City’s inclusion in the list of beneficiaries last Oct. 11. Martinez and Salimbangon are longtime political rivals.
“My office doesn’t know of such a program so its implementation comes as a big surprise,” said Martinez in his letter to Garcia.
In a separate interview, Salimbangon questioned Martinez’s claims on the absence of livelihood aid.
“But if COA will furnish me a copy of their audit letter, I will verify this with TRC,” he said. About P7.8 million was spent on livelihood trainings.
The COA is conducting an audit of priority projects implemented by local government units from 2007 to 2009.
Garcia said records from the Technology Resource Center (TRC) show that part of Salimbangon’s pork barrel was released to Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. to pay for livelihood trainings, training kits and materials from March to May 2008.
Bogo City was included in the list of 576 beneficiaries trained from March to May 2008 along with the towns of Bantayan, Daanbantayan, Madridejos, Medellin, San Remegio, Sta Fe, Tabogon and Tabuelan.
But Martinez replied to COA that none of the 29 barangays in Bogo City benefited from the livelihood program while none of the listed beneficiaries actually came from them.
In a report Jose Ursal, deputy director of the City of Bogo Anti-Crime Task Force (CBACTAF), said none of the barangay captains he spoke with heard of the program.
Two of the listed program beneficiaries in Bogo City—Elvira Abao of barangay Polambato and Ronald Lin of barangay Gairan—denied signing a list of the AFPI or that issued by Salimbangon’s office.
Garcia said the fund use report and list of beneficiaries submitted by AFPI lacks addresses making it difficult for COA to verify.
“Based on procedure, the audit team is confirming the conduct of trainings and distribution of training kits and materials.”
Salimbangon said he partners with government agencies for livelihood programs done under his office.
He said he couldn’t recall having tapped the help of AFPI.
He said one of his partner agencies could have tapped AFPI’s help.
“It’s the responsibility of government agencies to choose who will avail of the training,” Salimbangon said.
Salimbangon said he only gets updates about the project from his partner agency. /Carmel Loise Matus, Correspondent