The Commission on Audit (COA) commended five state auditors whose testimonies and exemplary audit work secured the Sandiganbayan convictions of former education and air force officials in separate graft cases.

State Auditors Araceli P. Geli, Joel C. Digal, Carlos C. Tagudin and Cresilda T. Caballero were recognized for their commendable audit work, skill and judgment that aided the conviction of two former officials of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) for involvement in various overpriced, ghost and uncompleted projects in Region XI.

COA also lauded State Auditor Joana Roda Aca-ac for her noteworthy audit and testimony which became the basis for conviction against a former president of the Philippine Air Force College of Aeronautics (PAFCA) for unlawfully receiving reimbursements from different first-class restaurants and five-star hotels.

In two separate Resolutions, the COA commended the auditors and enjoined its personnel “to emulate commendable work of these Auditors who exemplify professionalism and technical competence, and give pride, honor and integrity to the institution.”

The auditors received P25,000 cash incentive each, the same amount given to winners of the individual category award under the COA Program on Awards and Incentives for Service Excellence.

The Sandiganbayan recently found DECS Region XI Director Venancio R. Nava and Administrative Officer Aquilina B. Granada guilty of violating provisions of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the implementation of the 1991 Supplemental Elementary School Building Program of DECS in Region XI.

Nava and Granada were convicted, of two separate graft charges, for having caused full payments for the construction of five school buildings that were not actually constructed and 13 school buildings that were left unfinished. Nava was also found guilty, in a separate graft case, of entering into contracts for the purchase of overpriced construction materials without public bidding.

State Auditors Digal, Caballero and Tagudin comprised the special audit team formed to investigate the implementation of the said project upon the request of the Ombudsman-Mindanao. The team conducted ocular inspections of 118 school buildings at the project sites. COA noted the resilient inspection made by the auditors as they “traveled to the hinterlands of several school divisions, hiked through terrains, crossed creeks and rivers, and rode horses just to reach the project sites with unpassable roads.”

Resident Auditor Geli of DECS Division of City Schools of Davao City, for her part, made an independent canvass of the prices of the construction materials. Her canvass of the materials revealed prices were overpriced by 9% to 695%.

Based on the independent canvass and comparative analysis made by Auditor Geli, the special audit team found that full payments of about of P1.3 million had been made for five school buildings that were not constructed and noted deficiencies amounting to more than P1.5 million for 13 uncompleted school buildings. The team also found construction materials used for the projects were overpriced by more than P2.5 million.

Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan also found former PAFCA President Errol B. Perez guilty of unlawfully receiving reimbursements from PAFCA funds in excess of actual expenses for various meals and entertainment.

State Auditor Aca-ac personally went to the food establishments to verify the receipts and found disparities between the amount reimbursed and the actual amount in the receipts totaling P240,000.

These findings were included in the COA Special Operations Group Report on the Audit of the Philippine Air Force College of Aeronautics for the period January 1990 to August 1991 and became the basis for filing of criminal complaints against Perez.

Auditor Aca-ac was cited for “exemplary auditorial skills and judgment in personally verifying PAFCA accounting records and validating from the concerned establishments the authenticity of the official receipts in question, and in testifying on her personal knowledge of the audit conducted during the presentation of evidence before the Sandiganbayan which led to the conviction of accused Perez.”