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COA calls for filing of legal action against Cesar Montano.

By Ben Rosario

Movie actor and former Tourism Promotion Board chief operating officer Cesar Montano may be held liable in connection with alleged irregularities in implementation of the controversial Buhay Carinderia Project.

The Commission on Audit, in its 2018 annual audit report for the TPB that was posted Wednesday, said the tourism agency must file legal action against those involved in the project in view of the serious questions on the propriety and legality of the project implemented in 2018.

"Identify the persons liable to this onerous contract and institute appropriate legal action against them, if warranted," said COA.

Montano was heavily involved in the project after he allegedly authorized the release of P80 million in advance payment to Marylindbert International Inc.

Before resigning as TPB COO last year, Montano told media that it was then Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo who referred MII to him.

"The propriety and legality of expenditures totaling P80.640 million incurred on the "Buhay Carinderia" Project, implemented in CY 2018, were doubtful," declared COA.

State auditors said that there was irregularity when the cost of the project was charged to the CY 2017 budget although it was not included in the Annual Procurement Plan and the Project Management Plan for 2017 and 2018.

This violates Sections 7.1 and 7.2 of Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

According to COA the charging to the 2017 budget proceeded notwithstanding the fact that there were no actual savings for the year.

The state audit agency also chided TPB for failing to deduct the mandatory five percent Final Value Added Tax amounting to P3.6 million from MII, thus, violating Section 114 of the National Internal Revenue Code.

Further, state auditors said that they found various provisions of the MOA between TPB and the MII to be "disadvantageous to the government."

Aside from non-liquidation of previous tranches by the TPB, there was also no provision in the MOA that requires the submission of liquidation and utilization reports with supporting documents.

"Compared with other TPB projects, Buhay Carinderia was so costly," audit examiners noted, as they cited the P43.417 million contract price for a similar project, the "Madrid Fusion Manila 2017."

"The advertisement expenses for the said project amounted to P2.116 million or 4.87 percent. While the Buhay Carinderia advertisements amounted to P50.152 million or 62.69 percent of the total project cost," the auditors explained.

These audit observations are indicative of the fact that the payments made to MII "fall within the definition of irregular expenditures," COA said.

It will be recalled that Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat ordered the suspension of the implementation of Buhay Carinderia after reports of irregularities started pouring into her office.

Reacting to the COA report, the TPB management pointed out that sponsorship activities such as the Buhay Carinderia project are not covered by provisions of RA 9184.

The new management also assured auditors that demand letters have been sent for MII to refund the P3.6million but the firm has so far failed to comply.


Movie actor and former Tourism Promotion Board chief operating officer Cesar Montano (MANILA BULLETIN)
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jun 27, 2019
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