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Dagupan execs boast up to 6 high-end phones, renewed annually at gov’t expense – COA

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by Allan Yves Briones

Dagupan City officials caught the eye of the Commission on Audit (COA), after a post-audit revealed the “unnecessary” and “extravagant” purchase of high-end mobile phones and gadgets.

In 2018, according to state auditors, the city government of Dagupan doled out P1.41 million to procure various expenses mobile phones which were issued to its elected officials and department heads, and at least four city employees who were not entitled to it.

Audit records even showed that these officials enjoy the benefits of up to six government-owned smartphones issued since 2014.

“Those high end communication equipments requested and issued to some City Officials and Employees for almost every year is considered excessive and unnecessary expenditures, which are not allowable in audit,” COA stated in the 2018 annual audit report.

Sections 4.1, 5.1 and 6.1 of COA Circular No. 2012-003 provides the definition for such expenditures, referring to expenses which are not supported of the agency’s objectives, and those which are “immoderate, prodigal, lavish, luxurious, grossly excessive, and injudicious.”

While state auditors recognized hat mobile phones only have a maximum shelf life of five years, it remains “injustifiable” and “impractical” to allow Dagupan City executives to request for a new one every year – especially since the city government has access to landline telephones, computers and an internet connection.

Not to mention the availability of cheaper brands of phones and tablets which could serve the same purpose.

State auditors even warned former officials who kept previously issued mobile phones that as accountable officers, they may be held liable for malversation of public property under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.

COA ordered the city government to stop the purchase of mobile phones and tablets of expensive brands, and require former city executives and those with more than one unit to surrender or pay back the coffers the book value of the assets.

As stated in the report, then-mayor Belen Ferna instructed the city legal officer to prepare demand letters to the concerned individuals, with already five accountable persons having surrendered their units.

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