LAOAG CITY — Barely a month since the discovery of missing funds amounting to PHP90 million from the city government coffers, the Commission on Audit and the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) have yet to come out with the result of their findings.
With this, Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos assured Laoag residents who are eagerly awaiting for the final audit to keep calm and wait until the investigation, now dragging for a month now, is completed.
“The news regarding the Laoag treasury is not good for anyone, not for Laoag and not for Ilocos Norte. We must get to the bottom of it, make certain that there is complete investigation. No white wash, no coverup and no sacred cow,” said Marcos.
“As a chartered city, the finances of the Laoag government are completely separate—having its own set of internal controls and they are directly reporting to the BLGF and COA and the Department of Finance,” explained Marcos.
When city treasurer Elena Asuncion vanished upon the discovery of the missing funds, the governor said it was only that time when the Provincial Treasurer’s Office look into it. The Provincial Treasurer’s Office led by Provincial Treasurer Josephine Calajate assisted a team from the BLGF and COA Regional Office in the investigation.
Initial findings showed the start of missing funds was traced back since 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 Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines and Rang-ay Bank.
Earlier, City Mayor Chevylle Fariñas reported officials discovered the missing funds when the city government enforced a new Commission on Audit memorandum that required local finance officials to verify their accounts with banks.
The operation of the Laoag City Treasurer’s Office was shut down for a week but it is now back to normal operation so as not to affect the transactions of the city government.
Starting from a zero book of accounts, Assistant treasurer Diomedes Gayban assumed as the acting Officer-in-Charge at the Treasurer’s Office.
Meanwhile, Asuncion is still being tracked down by authorities as she fled out of the country. She was last seen attending a flag raising ceremony during the June 12 Independence Day celebration. PNA/northboundasia.com