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By: Mylen Manto | Published Tuesday, July 21, 2020
The sale of the Cebu International Convention Center in 2017 was found to have no approval from the Commission on Audit (COA) as required in the COA Circular No. 2017. Persons responsible for the property’s sale are asked to explain why existing regulations were not followed. FILE PHOTO

Proper procedures for the disposal of the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), a government property, were not established, said the Commission on Audit (COA) in its annual audit report for 2019.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, in her press conference on Monday, July 20 in Barili town, southern Cebu, said upon her assumption of office last year, she had talks with Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes on the possibility of the renegotiation for CICC.

“Yes, as far back as July pa last year because I already knew nga i-disallow gyud nis COA. So, I already told Mayor Jonas nga there is a possibility kinahanglan na ta mag renegotiate ani (CICC) kay murag wa man gud tuy proper nga procedure gisunod (the sale of CICC). Wa gani COA approval,” Garcia explained. 

In the annual report, COA said that “the Province consummated the sale of the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) including its appurtenances with a total cost of P840,060,809.75 at a total price of P300,000,000 through negotiation with the City of Mandaue despite the absence of failed public biddings and without securing prior COA approval, thus the reasonableness of the negotiated selling price as well as the propriety and conformity of the sale with existing regulations was not ascertained."

COA Circular No. 2017-003 dated October 25, 2017, amended Section 197 of COA Circular 92-386 require a public bidding if disposal of real property and improvements owned by the local government units will be made to other government or private entities. 

If bidding has failed, the disposal will be done by negotiation at a price to be determined by the Committee on Awards. In case of a negotiation, the disposal must be approved by the COA regardless of the value of the property to be disposed and the request for approval must be made prior to the perfection of the contract of sale through negotiation.

The COA found that such procedures were disregarded and thus recommended to require the persons responsible to explain why existing regulations were not followed.

Garcia said they will abide by the COA’s recommendations.

“So, naa naman gyud na. Nigawas na gyud na, sa COA year-end report, we will really need to abide by the COA nga recommendations. In fact, niingon sila, let the persons responsible answer for. We have written to the persons responsible nga mutubag sila nganong nabuhat na,” she stated.

On August 22, 2017, the Province of Cebu through then governor and now vice governor Hilario Davide III entered into a mutual termination of joint venture agreement and contract to sell with Mandaue City represented by then mayor Gabriel Luis “Luigi” Quisumbing, as authorized by their respective Sanggunians through a resolution. 

The aforementioned agreement, however, did not mention any failed public biddings prior to the parties’ decision to enter into a mutual agreement, according to the COA’s report.

Prior to the execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale, COA said the Provincial Government also failed to secure the required COA approval of the negotiated sale. The Mandaue City Government acquired ownership over CICC on October 2, 2018 through a Deed of Absolute Sale. 

Garcia clarified that the transaction was done during the previous administration of both the Province and Mandaue City.

“I will also emphasize that this was not during his (Cortes) time, also. Dili ni sa akong panahon. Dili sad ni panahon ni Mayor Jonas,” she said.

Garcia committed to recover all donated, sold, and disposed of properties that have no proper documents. Since her assumption in office last year, the Capitol has already recovered valuable properties in IT Park, Cebu City, among others. (Mylen Manto)