Friday, July 11, 2008

Mayor's brod linked to P3M loan anomaly

The brother of Valencia Mayor Rodolfo V. Gonzalez Jr., who is an incumbent municipal councilor, has been linked to the anomalous P3-million “financial assistance” to a disqualified non-government organization.
Documents obtained by the Negros Chronicle show municipal councilor Wilfredo V. Gonzalez, the mayor’s older brother, who chairs the powerful appropriations committee of the sangguniang bayan of Valencia, also occupied the position of “treasurer” of the Valencia Integrated Growers Multi-purpose Cooperative (VIGMPCI), a disqualified non-government organization that has been a recipient of a P3-million assistance from the municipal government.
This conflict of interest was among the findings of the latest report of the Commission on Audit.
The Commission on Audit has cited the cooperative code (R.A. No. 6938) which bars elective government officials from becoming officers of cooperatives.
A ranking official of the Valencia government interviewed by the Chronicle has described councilor Wilfredo V. Gonzalez as one suffering from a serious conflict of interest.
“The role of the municipal council is to appropriate funds for livelihood assistance to non government organizations,” the official said.
Another Valencia official also explained that the sanggunian grants authority to the mayor to enter into a contract with non government organizations.
“Councilor Gonzalez heads the appropriations committee of the sangguniang bayan” the official added.

“After the appropriation by the sanggunian, it goes to Mayor Roldolo Gonzalez Jr, who identifies the NGO loan beneficiaries,” the official explained.
“One of the loan recipients is an NGO-cooperative where councilor Wilfredo V. Gonzalez was a ranking officer---a treasurer at that,” the official noted.
That is plain and simple conflict of interest prohibited by the local government code, the official said.
Another Valencia official also questioned why councilor Wilfredo Gonzales is signing documents of the cooperative pertaining to the release of funds.
"Before the loaned coop funds are released to loan beneficiaries, documents have to pass through and be signed by councilor Gonzalez," the offiical said.
"Why is councilor Gonzalez signing coop documents when he is a municipal councilor?" the official asked.
The local government code (Section 51) clearly describes a conflict of interest relationship:
"Conflict of interest" refers in general to one where…a member of a sanggunian may not act in the public interest due to some private, pecuniary, or other personal considerations that may tend to affect his judgment to the prejudice of the service or the public

Section 89 of the local government code prohibits local government officials from having pecuniary interest in government transactions.
The law states: “It shall be unlawful for any local government official or employee, directly or indirectly, to: (1) Engage in any business transaction with the local government unit in which he is an official or employee or over which he has the power of supervision, or with any of its authorized boards, officials, agents, or attorneys, whereby money is to be paid, or property or any other thing of value is to be transferred, directly or indirectly, out of the resources of the local government unit to such person or firm”
A check by the Chronicle also revealed that the anti-graft and corrupt practices act (R.A. 3019) holds liable officials in a position of conflict of interest.
The general information sheet of the VIGMPCI for the year 2006 listed councilor Wilfredo V. Gonzalez as treasurer of the cooperative.
At the same time, a finding by the Commission on Audit bared “additional loan releases amounting to P2,000,000.00 in the year 2006 and 2007 were made to VIGMPCI.”
Thus loan releases were made while Wilfredo V. Gonzalez was both a municipal councilor and officer of the recipient cooperative.
The Commission on Audit in its latest report, considers the loans granted to the Valencia Integrated Growers Multipurpose Cooperative (VIGMPCI) as VOID.
The COA also said that VIGMPCI is disqualified from receiving the financial assistance.
The COA has directed that the VIGMPCI “will have to immediately settle the amount released to them.”
The COA has also questioned or doubted the “real intention and use of the fund released” to VIGMPCI and other questionable NGO’s.
The COA specifically noted the “failure on the part of the municipality to properly accredit the NGOs” as evidenced by their deficiencies.

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