More trouble hounds Oca
City Mayor Oscar Moreno is facing yet another legal battle at the anti-graft court after the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of additional graft charges for actions done during Moreno’s time at the provincial capitol.
Moreno had gotten relief from the Court of Appeals (CA) a day before regarding the Ombudsman’s six dismissal orders also stemming from the lease of heavy equipment contracts from 2007 to 2012, when he was still Misamis Oriental governor and for which the Commission on Audit (COA) had previously issued a Notice of Disallowances.
The Notice of Disallowance had become final and executory on January 2015.
A Notice of Disallowance is issued if an auditor finds irregularities in a government project and which directs the concerned agency or officials to return the money.
In its 16 separate resolutions, the Ombudsman found probable cause to order the filing of 18 counts
against Moreno, and co-accused ex-Provincial Accountant Divina Bade (16 counts) and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members, namely: ex-Provincial Legal Officer Cancio Guibone (one count), ex-Provincial Budget Officer Elmer Wabe (17 counts), exProvincial Administrator Patrick Gabutina (16 counts), ex-Assistant Provincial Engineer Rolando Pacuribot (18 counts), ex-Provincial Agriculturist Danilo Maputol (two counts), ex-Provincial General Services Officer Elsie Lopoy (five counts) and Administrative Aide Leemar Tinagan (three counts).
The Ombudsman also ordered the filing of additional charges for falsification of public documents against Moreno (one count), Wabe (four counts), Gabutina (four counts), Pacuribot (four counts), Lopoy (four counts), Maputol (two counts) and Tinagan (one count).
According to the COA Special Audit Report on equipment rental of the provincial government of Misamis Oriental for 2007 to 2012, the road maintenance program of the province received the “biggest share of the non-office projects and that the expenses for rental equipment is the third biggest expenditure under maintenance and other operating expenses”.
The COA also stated that the disbursements for equipment rental were irregular, with transactions amounting to P20,500,000.00 considered as fictitious as suppliers denied participation in the bidding process.”
Representatives from alleged contractors Equiprent, Geo Transport and Golden Richfield had denied any transaction for equipment rental with the provincial government.
The Ombudsman also reiterated that Moreno and the others, did not conduct any public bidding “for the multi-million peso lease deals and simply resorted to the alternative method of ‘shopping’ to rent tankers and road rollers while an excavator was procured thru negotiated procurement. Several Notices of Disallowances were issued by the COA then, after finding that the “bidding for the rental was simulated or rigged.”
In a press conference earlier this year, Moreno had argued that he settled with a negotiated purchase mode to address one of the biggest problems in the province immedeiatelythe lack of heavy equipment for infrastructure projects.
The Ombudsman, however, faulted the respondents for availing a negotiated procurement for the excavator finding that “there is not even a single document that invoked the existence of an emergency situation.”
It also found out that the rental of the excavator was already being carried out on a monthly basis without showing that the BAC was convened for the purpose of procuring services or goods to address the alleged emergency situation.
With regards to the falsification charges, the Ombudsman said, “Wabe, Gabutina, Pacuribot and Lopoy should be held liable for making it appear in the Abstract of Canvass Form that [the contractors] participated in the bidding, when it truth, they did not.”
As of Wednesday evening, Moreno and his lawyer could not be reached for a comment.