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Purisima: People behind WB loan blunder should be penalized

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Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has said the Supreme Court should penalize people involved in the US$ 199,000 in “ineligible expenditures” of the US$ 21.9 billion loan from the World Bank.

In a statement, Purisima said the Aide Memoire, which states the evaluation on the implementation of the WB-funded “Judicial Reform Support Project (JRSP) of SC “points to serious deficiencies in the implementation of the project.’

He explained the loan “is not with the Philippine Supreme Court but with the Republic of the Philippines” thus, “it is ultimately the Filipino people who will pay for this loan, not the leadership of the SC.”

He said “the refusal of the Chief Justice to be accountable for transactions done from mid-2010 to 2011 is tantamount to negligence of duty. The leadership of the SC owes it to the Filipino people to identify and penalize all those responsible for this breach in the disbursement of loan proceeds.”
The Finance chief said the WB is one of the country’s very important development partner and “to dismiss the result of their mission, after several meetings with the leadership of the SC, as sheer politicking is a great disservice to the partnership that the Republic has nurtured with this key development partner.”

He also noted that “the report points to grave systemic problems in the Supreme Court” namely “over-centralized decision making, irregular procurement practices, unreliable financial statements, and a breakdown of internal control, especially with the Court Administrator performing multiple functions with minimal checks and balance.”

“If these irregularities occurred in the disbursement of the WB loan, what about the regular budget of the SC, what about the special trust funds that the SC refuses to account before the public?,” he asked.

The SC has a fiscal autonomy but Purisima stressed that this privilege is given to preserve an institution’s independence.

“It cannot be used, however, to shirk from public accountability and hide the truth from the sovereign people, which we all serve.”

“We are all stewards of the people’s money, for the sake of truth and accountability, the leadership of the Supreme Court must heed the call of the people and explain to the public how they have used the funds which they have held in trust for the Filipino people,” he added.

The Aide Memoire rates the JRSP as “high risk and unsatisfactory on project management, project procurement, and financial management dimensions, and observes that project financial statement can no longer be relied upon.”

It also reported that some stakeholders and beneficiaries were excluded in JRSP implementation with the lower courts benefiting only 14 percent of the total information and communication technology (ICT) equipment being procured under the program.

“In addition, the mission also observes an acceleration in 2011 of “IT equipment purchases mostly through shopping procedures, outside the agreed procurement plan, through individual items/small lots inimical to economy and efficiency” and characterized by “the lack of standardization of technical specifications for common IT office equipment resulting in significant variations in price (e.g. unit prices of laptops procured range from US$ 782 to US$ 3252),” it said.

The report also noted the “peculiar situation of the Court Administrator who in four contracts, by virtue of his being concurrent Head of the Public Information Office, Chair of the Bids and Awards Committee and approving authority on behalf of the Chief Justice for payments up to Php500,000.”
The Court Administrator, it said, “was the requestor of the services, approver of the terms of reference, end-user of the services, authorizer of contract extensions, and authorizer of payments to the firm.”

(This) “lack of appropriate segregation of duties” (has) “created a breakdown of the control of environment, increased fiduciary and reputational risks, and led to irregular and inappropriate procurement and expenditure decisions,” it added.

By PNA




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