Ilocos Norte board asks COA to expedite special audit on Laoag’s missing fund

LAOAG CITY — Over the past six months, Laoag residents are still groping in the dark as to what happened and who shall be held liable on the loss of around Php 90 million from the city coffers.

So as not to disabuse the minds of the people of any attempt of whitewash of last year’s biggest controversy in Laoag, Provincial Board Member Vicentito Lazo, who hails from Laoag, said there is need to pass a resolution requesting the Commission on Audit to speed up the conduct of a special investigation.

Among the first draft resolutions tackled during the January 9 opening of the board’s regular session this year is Draft Resolution No. 2017-01-046, sponsored by Lazo, requesting concerned authorities of COA to provide result of the special audit.

Apart from the COA, the Office of the Ombudsman is also on top of the investigation regarding the multi-million missing funds of Laoag but up to this time, there had been no release of official report yet.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan has called on Laoag City Mayor Chevylle Fariñas and husband, Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas, to take a temporary leave of absence while the COA and the Bureau of Local Government Finance are conducting separate investigation, but the two top ranking city officials declined it as they insisted they have nothing to do about the missing funds.

In June 2016, then City Treasurer Elena Asuncion went missing along with the loss of over Php 85 million from various bank accounts being maintained by the city government.

Initial result of investigation shows that the irregularity was traced back to 2007 during the term of former city mayor and now vice mayor Fariñas.

The irregularity was apparently carried on and left undetected by the local finance committee until city officials discovered that time deposits and savings accounts, opened under the Laoag City government as recorded in the treasury’s financial reports, were non-existent when verified with the Laoag government’s depository banks.

To ensure no repetition of the Laoag fiasco, all local government units in the province have intensified their internal control systems to protect taxpayers’ money through an ordinance approved by the Ilocos Norte board late last year.