COA urges legal action linked to Cesar Montano’s ‘costly’ Buhay Carinderia project

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 28 2019 06:07 PM

State auditors last year questioned Cesar Montano’s “excessive” travels as government Tourism official. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA—The Commission on Audit has recommended legal action in connection with a Buhay Carinderia project worth P80 million that was implemented last year by the Tourism Promotions Board under Cesar Montano, the chief operating officer at the time.

In the 2018 audit report on the board, government auditors did not specify the individuals to be charged but it must “identify the persons liable to this onerous contract and institute appropriate legal actions against them, if warranted,” the COA report said.

Amid the controversial project, Montano resigned as board chief.

The total contract price of P80.640 million was released to project proponent Marylindbert International Inc. (MII) despite non-liquidation of previous tranches.

Montano’s “excessive” travels were also flagged by COA last year.

“Compared with other TPB projects, Buhay Carinderia was so costly. The contract price for the project of P80.640 million plus Value Added Tax, was excessive as compared to other TPB projects, like the Madrid Fusion Manila 2017, with contract price of P43.417 million only,” the COA report said.

Last year, Montano said that the board told the audit team that the contract was a “sponsorship” deal with Marylindbert and not classified as a “procurement” normally covered by provisions such as public bidding.

A copy of the report was received by current TPB COO Marie Venus Tan on Tuesday, June 25.

“The Buhay Carinderia Redefined Project was treated as a financial sponsorship undertaken pursuant to the TPB’s mandate to extend assistance to the private sector and was never treated and considered as a procurement activity,” the COA report said.

TPB management, however, acknowledged lapses regarding the full payment made to Marylindbert.

“TPB has begun to undertake the necessary courses of action to ensure that it will be able to recover from MII funds that were released without observing applicable laws and rules,” the COA report quoted the TPB management.

Former Tourism secretary Wanda Teo was also linked to the project in question.

The full audit report on the TPB can be downloaded from the COA website.