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Bawal yan! COA smells P801K ‘pork barrel’ in Batuan town budget in Bohol

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State auditors smelled something greasy in the 2015 budget of the municipality of Batuan in Bohol – some P801,250.18 discretionary funds for the vice mayor and Sangguniang Bayan which auditors hit as an illegal pork barrel.

In a 2016 report, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that in its review of the 2015 Annual Budget, some P801,250.18 was earmarked under the Office of the Municipal Vice-Mayor and Sangguniang Bayan Members.

Auditors said the fund has a discretionary nature, similar to the now defunct Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the lump-sum allocation to legislators which was scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2013 after it declared as unconstitutional the practice of post-enactment intervention in the budget.

“Review of the 2015 Annual Budget disclosed that discretionary fund amounting to P801,250.18 was included under the Office of the Municipal Vice-Mayor and Sangguniang Bayan Members. The discretionary fund is similar to PDAF, wherein lump-sum allocations are granted to members of the legislative body and allow them to determine and fund specific projects after enactment of the annual budget,” the auditors said.

“With this set up, the discretion or the final say as to the extent of financial assistance as to whom, what and how much to be given/released rests with the concerned legislators. This method was declared unconstitutional and acts of grave abuse of discretion by the Supreme Court,” the auditors added.

The discretionary fund include the following expenditures – emergency assistance, academic medals, legal assistance program to barangay officials, budgetary support to Sanggunian’s different committees, other MOOE final tribute allocation, other MOOE, Youth and Sports Development Program, General Services, and Scholarship Program.

The Sanggunian Secretary told the auditors the discretionary funds have been returned to the Mayor’s Office.

The COA urged the municipal mayor Francisco Pepito to stop the practice of allocating discretionary funds for the Sangguniang Bayan in its Annual Budget

The COA recommended that any unobligated balance of the discretionary fund should be transferred to the Office of the Municipal Mayor, and that a supplemental budget enumerating the specific projects be prepared as identified by the Municipal Development Council.

The COA also said that the municipality should not adopt any similar unconstitutional methods and mechanisms that would violate the Supreme Court decision on the PDAF.