August 18, 2023 People's Journal 298 views

Inquiry into Pampanga town’s alleged anomalous transactions is about accountability, transparency, safeguarding public funds — Paduano

THE ongoing House inquiry into P149-million worth of alleged questionable transactions of the municipal government of Mexico, Pampanga under Mayor Teddy Tumang is not in any way intended to scare away investors, according to the chairman of the investigating panel.

During the committee’s last hearing on Tuesday, Abang Lingkod Party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano, chair of the Committee on Public Accounts, said the investigation is about accountability, transparency and safeguarding public funds.

“Let me assure all officials of Mexico, Pampanga, investors and relevant stakeholders that this legislative inquiry does not wish to stifle the endeavors of legitimate business investors seeking to enhance and invest in the municipality of Mexico,” he said.

“Our aim is not to discourage them…both the committee and the House leadership stand in unwavering support of investors, local and foreign, in the country. This stance underscores our support for fostering economic growth and opportunities,” he said.

He alleged that the inquiry “concerns public officials who have exploited their positions to accumulate personal wealth and extend their grip on power.”

“Our commitment to transparency and fairness compels us to uncover the facts and rectify any wrongdoing that may have occurred. Our objective is to ensure that the municipality’s resources are allocated and utilized in a manner that upholds the highest standards of governance and benefits its constituents,” Paduano stressed.

He urged those who have information on the subjects under investigation to “engage us with an open mind and a shared dedication to the principles of accountability and justice.”

Paduano also spoke of the facts and evidence the committee has so far uncovered.

He said during its hearing last August 2, his panel revisited the “troubling discoveries” made by a fraud audit team of the Commission on Audit (CoA) on the questionable transactions.

“Mayor Tumang was found to have engaged in procurement processes with individuals with whom he had personal connections. The (audit) report states that within the subject P43-million procurement contracts, over P28 million was awarded to bidders who either share close relationships or engage in personal dealings with Mayor Tumang,” he said.

Out of the P149 million covered by the audit, the CoA has disallowed more than P82 million. Of the disallowed amount, Tumang has returned over P43 million to his town’s treasury, leaving an unpaid balance of P39 million.

Paduano said while the mayor has returned P43 million, the alleged irregularities raise concerns about the influence of Mayor Tumang’s affiliations on the outcomes of otherwise regular procurement activities of the municipality.“

As for the unpaid balance of P39 million, he said the CoA should now refer the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Transparency, accountability and the timely resolution of matters such as these are pivotal in maintaining the integrity of our local governance,” he said.

He added that his committee is also looking into the purchase by the municipal government of Mexico of 2.8 hectares of agricultural land for P79.5 million.

Paduano said the land sellers were a certain Aedy Tai Yang and the couple Arnel and Sonia Pangilinan.

He said Yang sold to the town a one-hectare lot for P29.5 million, or P2,950 per square meter, while the Pangilinans sold almost 1.8 hectares at P2,800 for a total of P50 million.

The sellers sold their lots to the municipal government in February this year, six months after acquiring them from farmers for P300 per square meter, according to him.

The lots, located in Barangay San Antonio, were to be the new site of the seat of the municipal government. A convention center is also planned to be built there.

Yang has not attended the inquiry, prompting the committee to subpoena him and suppliers Rizalito Dizon and Roberto Tugade.