Zubiri admits to ‘management lapses’ amid COA probe

MALAYBALAY CITY – Former Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, now vice governor, admitted to lapses in management amid a Commission on Audit probe on allegations of irregularities during his term as governor.

The COA 10 Regional Office is investigating a complaint filed by a group who called themselves the Northern Mindanao Concerned Citizens Against Graft and Corruption questioning Zubiri for alleged graft and corrupt practices.

Zubiri denied the allegations when asked by reporters but admitted to “lapses in management” ahead of the release of the COA special audit team’s final report.

Hesselinda Valencia, COA supervising auditor, via telephone on July 15 confirmed the probe but declined to give details pending the release of the final report. The probe opened in January 2011, sources at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, where Zubiri is presiding officer, said.

COA refused to provide a copy of the order for the special audit team and the complaint lodged against Zubiri pending the release of the final report.

Valencia confirmed that the team met with Zubiri and the others involved in an exit conference at the Malberry Suites in Cagayan de Oro City on July 14. The conference was moved from a venue in Malaybalay City in the morning allegedly due to security concerns on the side of the audit team.

The investigation covered alleged fraud in the release of at least P600 million of the province’s 20 percent development fund from 2007 to 2010; the release of at least P80,000 extra bonus or the performance enhancement incentives to regular employees; alleged anomaly in the implementation of the Department of Agriculture’s fertilizer program in the province; the management of the province’s indigent health program, and two other items.

Zubiri denied committing fraud in any of the allegations lodged against him, which he said he welcomed even if it was an “unsigned complaint.”

He said when he received the COA letter informing them of the unsigned complaint; he wrote back and told COA to proceed.  He claimed a political vendetta was behind the complaint.

Zubiri told Bukidnon News Wednesday the province lost no money in his administration’s transactions.

“The money went to the people, not to my pocket,” he added, referring to the development funds he released as financial assistance to Bukidnon’s 464 barangays and to the extra bonuses for Christmas.

On the development funds, Zubiri said the COA team found the releases were made despite the lack of supporting documents like the memorandum of agreement (MOA), local resolutions requesting the release of funds for the projects, and program of work.

On the extra bonuses, he said the releases were approved by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through the Department of Budget and Management for those released before 2010. The same is true, he said, of the Christmas 2010 extra bonus under the Aquino administration. DBM, he said, approved the release because of their surplus. He said they were allowed because they did not exhaust their limit for personnel expenses.

He denied ill practice in the release of fertilizers from the DA, adding the master list was with the municipal agriculture officers (MAOs).

But Zubiri admitted to some management lapses in allowing the release without the documents.

“I plead guilty for the lapses of management,” he said.

He added that for the development funds, he was rushing to hand the checks to the barangays whom he promised the projects.

But he denied any irregularity and stressed that he was against any irregular practice during his administration.

He said he initiated procedures that saved money for the province like construction of school buildings that are cheaper than the usual cost. He said he also did not use his P25 million per year intelligence fund “to avoid the temptation.”

“But I’m not perfect. I am not God to have no lapses (in management),” he added.

He challenged his detractors to find proof of their allegations.

“If you can find an iota of evidence then I will voluntarily resign as vice governor, proceed to detention even without due process,” he added.

Zubiri vowed to provide a copy of final report when the COA releases it possibly next week. (Walter I. Balane)

Find this story also in: www.mindnews.com

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