Overstaying Benguet power coop Board Members disqualified from posts

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BAGUIO CITY (September 14, 2021) – The National Electrification Administration in its 2019 and 2020 audit on Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) found out there is an account receivable of P54,633,718.15 from its 10 Board of Directors (BOD) and with P37,365,417.24 outstanding balances of personal and official cash advances, also from these same officials.

These financial misdeeds are reasons why the Beneco Board of Directors,  said lawyers Rocky Balisong,  Willybroth Managtag,  Patrick Astudillo,  Joel Pasiwen and Jingboy Atonen, “are disqualified from their posts” because law mandates “an EC (Electric Cooperative) director or officer, in order to remain as such, must continue to possess all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications throughout his term/tenure of office. To this end, no EC Director shall be allowed to stay in Office in a hold-over capacity if he/ she fails to meet all the qualifications.”

The continuing qualification requirement is found in Republic Act 10531 or “An act strengthening the National Electrification Administration, further amending for the purpose Presidential Decree 269, as amended, otherwise known as the National Electrification Administration decree.”

The P37,365,417.24 came from the NEA-disapproved per diems from board meetings done more than the normal or were done weekly.  There were also benefits like 13th-month pay, anniversary bonuses, year-end bonuses, and Christmas bonus, and other benefits paid to the BOD applying the benefits of the employees under Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, although the BOD are not covered or entitled to receive them.

The NEA also found out that the BOD also went to have excessive signing privileges in Beneco-accredited restaurants in Baguio, La Trinidad, and Buguias, which must be used with guidelines and limits as stipulated in Beneco Board resolution but “exceeded what as allotted to them for the year.”  NEA disallowed P4,449, 329.02 incurred in signing privileges.

Accordingly, a Beneco BOD is allowed by a 2018 Board resolution of signing privileges of P100,000 a year and P200,000 a year for the BOD President but the NEA found this excessive.

The NEA further took note of the excessive gasoline allowances used by the BOD compared to what was allowed to them during board meetings.

The electric cooperative supervisory and regulatory body urged, “the Board should immediately refund all NEA audit disallowances and is reminded to refrain from claiming benefits and allowances over and above NEA guidelines to avoid future disallowances.”

It further added, “the coop should refrain from granting personal cash advances to the Board of Directors, otherwise this will be charged to the personal account of the signatories of the check voucher.”

The NEA also flagged Beneco of the release of cash advances to the members of the BOD despite not having liquidated an earlier issued cash advance.  While particularly, NEA also “raised eyebrows” on the P1M loan of BOD President Esteban Somngi using Beneco’s credit line with the Development Bank of the Philippines.

“The management should immediately liquidate their outstanding cash advances and ensure full settlement of their obligations with the coop,” NEA stressed.

 “Overstaying BOD”

The NEA also took note of the number of years the Beneco BOD has been sitting in office.  “As can be observed, most of the BOD should have been replaces in 2018, but was deferred for two months as approved by the NEA in April 2018.  It was further extended to the 3rd quarter of 2019 due to the conduct of the barangay elections and was ordered to do the election in the same period.”

However, the current Beneco board in a December 2019 resolution moved the election to the first quarter of 2022.

Though this board resolution was approved by NEA,  it urges that “the board sitting on hold-over capacity must continue to possess the qualification and none of the disqualification which include having no unsettled or outstanding obligation.”

Section 16 of the Department of Energy Circular dated September 2014 on the continuing qualification requirement of a Director and Officer provides that “members of the EC Board shall be deemed to have unsettled obligation including power bills, cash advances, disallowances (including NEA findings) and materials and equipment issuances.

Provided further that at any given time during his membership in the EC, he or she must be totally free of any unsettled or outstanding obligations and or disallowances with the EC.”

NEA believed, “the Beneco Board of Directors are deemed disqualified and should not be allowed to remain as such as they failed to meet the continuing qualifications required on the following grounds: All of them (10 members including Somngi) are with unsettled NEA audit disallowances, it pointed out, even specifying, “some are with liquidated cash advances, personal loans, and car loans.  Some are not in good standing for having unpaid power bills for months.

Artemio A. Dumlao