Issue of March 11, 2018

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COA denies plea of ex–mayor on Kabayan green fees collection
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

The Commission on Audit denied the appeal filed by former Kabayan mayor Faustino Aquisan regarding the disallowance on the collection of green and cultural fees by the non-government organization represented by the former mayor.

The COA dismissed the appeal for Aquisan’s failure to submit his appeal within 180 days from receipt of the notice of charge.

The COA decision dated Jan. 23 showed that Aquisan, who represented the non-government organization Mystical Kabayan Tourism Culture and Arts Council, Inc. (MKTCAC) submitted his appeal 198 days after receiving the notice of charge.

“This makes the Dec. 23, 2016 decision of the COA final and executory pursuant to Sect. 22.1 of the 2009 rules and regulations on the settlement of accounts,” states the decision signed by COA Regional Director Joseph B. Anacay.

The COA previously recommended for the MKTCAC to stop collecting fees from tourists and to return P5,220,448 to the coffers of the local government of Kabayan.

The COA said only the municipal treasurer or its deputized representative is supposed to collect fees. It said allowing a non-deputized entity to collect fees exposes government funds to possible misuse or misappropriation.

Citing the Municipal Revenue Code, the COA said only the municipal treasurer shall exercise direct supervision, administration and control over the collection of green and cultural fees.

The treasurer is also responsible in maintaining records of all monies received and paid out of the green and cultural fees.

The COA said since 2013, the municipal government of Kabayan has been deprived of millions because none of the collections made by the MKTCAC was remitted to the municipal government.

The collections were deposited under the group’s name in the Rural Bank of Buguias, which is not an accredited government depository bank.  

The COA also found out that in the MKTCAC’s incorporation papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, promotion of tourism and preservation of culture and heritage are its primary functions, not to collect fees. The audit team also found out that the functions of the MKTAC have the same functions with that of the Municipal Tourism and Culture and Arts Council. The incorporators in both entities are also the same, led by the former mayor. 

Aside from ceasing from collecting green and cultural fees, the COA also directed for Municipal Treasurer Janice D. Pucay to account for all the collections, deposit the same under a trust fund in an accredited depository bank, and issue official government receipts.

The municipal accountant was also directed to maintain a separate book for green and cultural fees to ensure that the objectives to which the fees are being collected are attained.

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