The Department of Finance (DOF) is set to file administrative charges against fugitive Laoag City Treasurer Elena Asuncion and wants the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct deeper probes into the over P85 million-worth of missing public funds under her accountability.

At the same time, the DOF will ask the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to validate whether Asuncion had indeed fled to Honolulu, Hawaii—as reported by a local immigration officer—or to any other possible destination overseas, following preliminary probe findings that time deposits belonging to the city government could no longer be accounted for after her “mysterious and suspicious” disappearance last June.

Asuncion’s request for an indefinite leave of absence (LOA) was also outrightly denied because she left the country without securing a travel authority and official LOA from the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF).

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III issued these directives based on  the recommendations of Consolacion Agcaoili, the officer-in-charge (OIC) of the  BLGF in Region I, who supervised the fact-finding investigation into the missing P85 million from the Laoag City coffers.

DOF filing charges vs fugitive Laoag treasurer with missing P85-M city funds
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“The DOF is haling Ms. Asuncion into court for making a vanishing act,” Dominguez said.

“We are also asking the NBI, COA and the BI to get to the bottom of this case of the missing P85 million in city funds.”

“Based on the report of the BLGF fact-finding committee that had investigated the missing P85 million in city funds, Ms. Asuncion was at the very least guilty of violating the DOF’s rules on local treasury operations as well as COA regulations,” he added.

The BLGF, which is an agency under the DOF, is headed by OIC Executive Director Niño Raymond Alvina.
The fact-finding report revealed that in a radio interview, immigration officer Paul Versoza had confirmed that “Asuncion left the country on June 14, 2016 at 12:35 PM via Philippine Airlines Flight 100 bound for Honolulu, Hawaii, using a tourist visa, as per records of the Bureau of Immigration.”

In her fact-finding report, Agcaoili noted that the Office of the City Treasurer “disregarded internal control systems and procedures and public fund management principles.”

The investigating team found out that on her watch as city treasurer, Asuncion had completely controlled all cash collections and that the cashbooks were not regularly updated, in violation of local treasury operations rules of the DOF and COA regulations.

The Cash Division also kept collections in its custody, indicating that these were not deposited intact, while the City Accountant admitted that bank reconciliation to verify the city’s time deposit certificates were not done, Agcaoili reported.

 “Having left her station sans the required travel authority as a government employee, more so that she is an accountable officer with funds and accountable forms under her custody, constituting a prima facie evidence, City Treasurer Asuncion should be immediately charged with violation of reasonable office rules and regulations,” said Agcaoili in her probe report to Dominguez.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte has already adopted a resolution requesting Laoag City Mayor Chevylle Fariñas and Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas to “consider the clamor for them to take  a leave of absence” while the COA investigation into the missing funds is ongoing.

Chevylle Fariñas is married to Michael Fariñas, who was the city mayor for three consecutive terms before running for vice mayor in the May 9 polls.

Agcaoili informed the finance chief, through the BLGF OIC, that her fact-finding probe was conducted in coordination with the city auditor of Laoag and the provincial auditor of Ilocos Norte.

Assistant City Treasurer Diomedes Gayban has been installed as OIC of the Office of the Laoag City Treasurer in place of the runaway Asuncion, to restore normal treasury operations in the city after the COA had certified to Gayban’s non-involvement in this fund anomaly.

“This Office is closely monitoring the OIC-City Treasurer, more so, that all of the staff of the Cash Division have been relieved by the City Mayor and transferred to another office,” Agcaoili said in her report.

Agcaoili reported that on June 10, 2016, a closed circuit television (CCTV) clip captured Asuncion opening the backdoor of her office and placing outside two large paper bags, which she later picked up.

Mayor Fariñas issued a memorandum to City Accountant Edgar Pascual requiring him to explain his failure to detect the anomalies at the Office of the City Treasurer for the past years.

“You are hereby directed to explain within 72 hours upon receipt hereof your failure to detect the anomalies that transpired at the Office of the Treasurer at an earlier time considering the fact that such anomalies were committed by the City Treasurer for a period of several years,” said Fariñas in her memo to Pascual dated June 16, 2016. 

The memo further said that Pascual’s failure to explain “constitutes negligence of duty and shall be treated accordingly.” AJRSP

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DOF filing charges vs fugitive Laoag treasurer with missing P85-M city funds DOF filing charges vs fugitive Laoag treasurer with missing P85-M city funds Reviewed by Kristian S. on 16 August Rating: 5

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