Talisay City recorded spending P31.25 million in confidential funds in 2022, the biggest among local government units in Cebu, according to the annual audit of government agencies in 2023 by the Commission on Audit. The confidential fund allocation for the year was only P25 million but “erroneous recording” resulted in an overstatement of P37.5 million.
In the annexes to their financial report, Talisay City logged P31.25 million as confidential funds and P6.25 million as intelligence expenses in 2022.
It is a sharp increase from the P12.5 million as confidential funds and P13.5 million as intelligence expenses in 2021.
The figures were contained in the 2023 audit report released by COA in June 2023.
There was no reply to requests for comments and clarification by Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. coursed through his staff.
The LGU with the next biggest confidential fund allocation in 2022 was Toledo City at P12 million. A request for an interview with Mayor Marjorie P. Perales was forwarded to her staff but no response was received as of this writing.
Tuburan, a 2nd class town to the north of Metro Cebu, recorded P7,415,296 as confidential funds in the same year. Cebu City was next with an allocation of P7,381,511 in confidential funds.
“It’s always about peace and order, safety, and security,” said Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama. The funds, he explained, have strict processes and requirements for their releases and should be for organizations like the police, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or PDEA.
He said these are then accounted for and “itemized confidentially.”
Lapu-Lapu City recorded P7.123 million in confidential funds in 2022 while Mandaue City and Barili both logged P6 million.
Talisay City’s spending of confidential funds was flagged by COA in its annual audit report released in June. It was among the bases for the government auditors’ rendering of a “qualified opinion” for the city’s finances.
“Erroneous recording of the Confidential Expenses for the 4th quarters of CYs 2021 and 2022 as part of the Accounts Payable totaling P12,500,000, resulting in the understatement of the Advances to Officers and Employees account by P6,250,000 and the overstatement of the Accounts Payable and Confidential Expense accounts by P12,500,000 and P18,750,000,” COA said in its enumeration of the bases for the qualified opinion.
There was no appropriation of confidential funds for the biggest LGU, Cebu Province.
Allocations for confidential funds have become controversial over the request by the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education under Vice President Sara Duterte. The House of Representatives eventually realigned confidential funds allotted for her agencies to government bodies involved in the country’s security.