Ilocos Norte LGUs to intensify internal control systems

LAOAG CITY — Following a series of public hearings and deliberation, an ordinance that seeks to intensify internal controls to protect taxpayers’ money is now in place covering the 21 towns and two cities of Ilocos Norte province.

This means the local finance committee of LGUs, particularly their local chief executives, accountant and treasurer are mandated to strictly implement specific guidelines in handling government funds and failure to do so will subject them to appropriate charges.

Learning from the experience of the Laoag treasury where local taxpayers are still groping in the dark of what really happened on the loss of around Php 90 million from the city coffers, Provincial board member Vicentito Lazo, proponent of the ordinance, said there are existing provisions of the law that must be followed, hence, the passage of said ordinance is meant to strengthen the internal control systems of LGUs.

Draft Provincial Ordinance No. 2016-09-010 which aims to strengthen the internal controls against malversation, appropriation and disbursements that are illegal for an anti-graft government and bureaucracy and to instill responsibility and knowledgeability in officials of government has been finally approved on December 5 at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall.

To date, the multi-million missing funds of Laoag have yet to be recovered and no single person has been held liable for it.

Investigation shows the irregularity was traced back to 2007 during the term of former city mayor now vice mayor Michael 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.

Based on the previous hearings conducted, Lazo reported that all accountants in Ilocos Norte have been faithfully conducting verification with depository banks except for the Laoag government.

By law, the accountant is the internal auditor.

“Had the accountant done his job, this irregularity should have been avoided,” Lazo said referring to the city accountant of Laoag City, Edgar Pascual.

The Laoag City Treasurer’s Office is now under normal operation but its city treasurer Elena Asuncion who also went missing in June 2016 following the loss of around Php 90 million remains being traced by authorities for her to shad light on the issue.