Parks Chief Belmonte in hot water for P7.5M irregular expenses: P1M spent for tailoring, hunting for ‘Duterte orchid’ in Singapore
Another appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte at the Department of Tourism (DOT) was flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) over P7.5 million in “excessive, irregular and unsupported expenditures” including over half a million pesos in tailoring services.
The COA questioned Penelope D. Belmonte, executive director of the DOT-attached National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), for the lack of documentation on P7.5 million expenditures in its 2017 annual audit report.
COA reported that Belmonte spent P562,200.00 for “tailoring services to create the design and produce the uniform” of NPDC officers and employees, while skipping basic government required documents such as terms of reference, request of quotation, abstract of canvass and official receipts to support the purchase.
The NPDC has allocated P890,000.00 for uniform/clothing allowance for its personnel in 2017 budget.
Other dubious expenses flagged by COA were:
* P3.7M payments to performing artists for the “Concert at the Park”, “Paco Park Presents”, “Labs Kita Sabado” and other events
* P2.2M for the purchase of computers, aircon units, brush cutter, water tanks and payments for a website developer and an electrical rehabilitation service
* P476,000 professional fees for a lawyer
* P380,000 excess in travel expenses to Singapore, Russia and China.
COA said Belmonte and other NPDC officers supposedly went on a study tour on Singapore Parks and Recreation Management with a mission to acquire an orchid to be named after Duterte.
Belmonte’s group, however, failed to submit quotations for tickets and other documents, including a narrative of the trip undertaken, according to COA.
Aside from these anomalies, COA urged Belmonte to observe transparency in hiring workers by allowing the Human Resources unit to search for qualified applicants as prescribed in COA and Civil Service Commission circulars.
“We noted that there were no established procedures in the hiring of hiring and selection of JOs (job orders) … As such, job seekers/applicants were not accorded equal opportunities since the endorsements emanated directly from the office of the executive director,” the COA report said.
The report was posted on the COA website ahead of a Politiko exclusive report on the NPDC’s P40M contract with the Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc (VISAI), a private security agency wholly-owned by Solicitor General Jose Calida and his family.
Belmonte signed the contracts for NPDC, while Calida’s wife, Milagros, represented VISAI as its president and chairman. Belmonte maintained a bidding was held, and that VISAI had a contract with NPDC in 2014.
SolGen Calida also denied any conflict of interest. He said he resigned from the family-owned corporation in May, 2016. Malacanang also dismissed any irregularity since Calida was just a stockholder of VISAI.
In the 2017 report, COA noted a P10 million decline in NPDC revenues due to Belmonte’s decision to stop collecting fees and charges from vendors and the park’s gated facilities.
The COA recommended to the NPDC to review the policies, rules and regulations on revenue generation for the two parks. In response, the NPDC agreed to create a committee to assess its revenue stream and formulate a business model to improve its income profile.
The COA also urged the NPDC to expedite the long-delayed Paco Park Conservation Project “in accordance with the set timelines.”
The project was allocated P12.7M in the 2017 GAA.
The NPDC decision making body is composed of Board headed by the Secretary of Tourism as chairman, NPDC exec director as vice chair, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprize Zone Authority (TIEZA) exec director as COO; with the Intramuros Administration administrator, Tourism Promotions Board exec director, Manila City mayor and a Usec of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as members of the board. (FBZ)