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COA Flags Ports Authority for P10 Million Infinity Pool, Room

It was a 'wasteful spending of public funds,' say state auditors.
by Erwin Colcol
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Photo/s: Philippine Ports Authority/Facebook

State auditors called out the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) over the "unnecessary" construction of a P10.86 million infinity pool and an additional room at its Port Management Office in San Fernando City, La Union, calling it "wasteful" spending of public funds.

In its 2020 audit report on the agency, the Commission on Audit (COA) said the expenditures of the projects in the PMO's Training Center Compound (TCC) were not supportive of the PPA's vision and mandate, which is to develop, operate and manage a rationalized port system to support trade and national development.

The construction of the facilities also caused the demolition of a year-old canopy and a portion of a newly constructed perimeter fence, which state auditors said compromised the safety of the PMO's properties, personnel, and guests.

"Prudence and diligence would dictate that these expenditures and structures were 'unnecessary' as these seem neither justifiable nor responsive to the exigencies of the service," COA said.

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According to the auditors, the PPA management justified the improvements, saying that it would increase customer influx resulting in higher non-traditional income. But COA pointed out that the agency even incurred losses in the operations of the TCC.

While the TCC generated gross income of around P700,000 in 2018, it also incurred around P750,000 in electricity expenses alone, COA said.

The commission also said the existing structures and major improvements at the TCC "were deemed already more than sufficient to provide the needs [of PPA]."

"Despite the adequacy of the facilities and amenities, management still pursued the construction of new structures without any supporting feasibility study, and seemingly, without regard for value-for-money."

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The COA said PPA management insisted on the need for such structures to avoid incurring higher costs in the conduct of the Port Executive Conference, health and wellness programs, meetings, training and conference in expensive hotels.

The PPA also said that its management saw the potential of the existing facilities in the TCC to become one of PPA's Training Center and Gender and Development and Wellness Center "that is of global standard, away from the bustling metropolis and polluted environment." It can also hold conferences, weddings, birthdays, and other ocassions.

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"Though it is not our mandate, it could help generate additional revenue," COA quoted PPA.

On Monday, the PPA said the renovation and improvement of its facilities in TCC had been completed, noting that it would house the continuous training of its port police force in order for them to carry out their mandate.

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“Wellness seminars and other team-building sessions of PPA employees can also be held in this facility free-of-charge instead of renting other appropriate venues,” said PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago.

“At the same time, it is also a source of income from rental fees as it will be made available to local government units, other government agencies, and the private sector within the region for their events,” he added.

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It was a 'wasteful spending of public funds,' say state auditors.
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