A game plan to reel in more visitors to the Loboc River Cruise is now in jeopardy after the Commission on Audit (COA) recommended to the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Loboc to revert to the original mode of collecting P100 from every paying guest who avail of the popular floating restaurant river cruise in accordance with Municipal Ordinance No. 01 series of 2010.
A desperate LGU faced with an alarming decline in the number of visitors of their crown jewel – the floating restaurant river cruise, hatched a scheme to lure back guests involving the payment of additional monetary incentives to van drivers.
Commissions for van drivers delivering guests to the fifteen floating restaurants in Loboc increased by 160% more or less after the LGU paid an additional P50 per head for a whooping P130 commission from the previous P80 from the three floating restaurant operators.
The P100 per head municipal share was slashed 50% with the other half paid to van drivers as commissions.
Estimated income from the tourism industry in Loboc represents 39.40% of the total estimated income of P77.7 million per approved 2014 budget of Loboc, according to the 2014 COA Audit Report.
COA raised fears that the continued implementation of the incentive commissions to van drivers would cause a reduction of the share of the municipality from the river cruise operation “which could have a multiplier effect on the budget of the LGU for the succeeding budget years”.
However, the COA pointed out that the P50 monetary incentive is not in pursuance of Municipal Ordinance No. 01 series of 2010 mandating the payment by guests of P100
But the COA thru the 2014 Annual Audit Report frowned on the manner funds for the monetary incentives were sourced that resulted in “opportunity lost or unearned income” of the LGU in the amount of P889,570.00.
The audit report showed that despite the driver’s monetary incentive scheme, there was no significant increase in the number of guests compared to the months were no incentives were paid to the van drivers.
COA conducted a review of the incentive payrolls of the van drivers showed that for the period November 8-13, 2014, a total of P75,300.00 were paid to van drivers as commissions for bringing 1,467 guests to the floating restaurants.
The payment of monetary incentives to van drivers representing approximately 50% of the gross receipts has generated a break even net receipts resulting to opportunity lost or unearned income, according to the audit report.
The Sanggunniang Bayan (SB) of Loboc adopted Resolution No. 132-2014 on August 14, 2014 granting P50 per guest commission to van drivers to be sourced from the P100 paid by each guest as maintenance, safety and security (MSS).
The MSS shall be used for the preservation, protection, maintenance, development and promotion of the town’s tourist spots and the safety of tourists and visitors.
The move of the SB drew a sharp rebuke from the COA reminding the municipal councilors the difference between an ordinance and a resolution.
The COA stressed to the SB that an ordinance is a local law of a general and permanent character while a resolution is a mere expression of the opinion or sentiment of the body and is temporary in nature.
The P100 MSS was covered by an ordinance but the P50 incentive was based on a resolution adopted by the SB prompting the COA to call their attention that an ordinance passed and approved by the SB cannot be superseded by a mere resolution.
An ordinance continues to be in force until amended or repealed by another ordinance enacted by the SP, according to the COA.
The COA report also noted that transactions involving the monetary incentives given to van drivers had no appropriate expense accounts in the governments chart of accounts.
Municipal Councilor Erwin Baquial told theÂ ChronicleÂ that his misgivings about the seeming rush of his colleagues in the SB to adopt the resolution instead of amending the existing ordinance was validated by the latest audit reports.
Baquial, an accountant by profession explained to the SB during deliberations for the adoption of the resolution granting P50 to van drivers as incentive that “this anomalous accommodation will eventually lead to a possible probe into the financial transactions of the LGU”.
Baquial also told theÂ ChronicleÂ that an ordinance was passed by the SB granting P50 to van drivers and is now awaiting approval of the Sanggunniang Panlalawigan.
Being in the minority, Baquial was outvoted and the resolution adopted resulting in the granting of P889,570.00 as drivers incentives but a much lesser amount as municipal share in the amount of P1,224,390.00.
Baquial also raised red flags on the apparent lack of control over the granting of commissions to van drivers fearing that the incentives will fall into the pockets of unscrupulous pseudo van drivers.
The above figures are for the month of November and December, 2014 covered by the audit report. Incentives were given starting November 8, 2014.
With more competing destinations open to guests in the province, LGU’s are now scrambling to keep their hold on the viability of their respective tourist attractions.Â (Chito M. Visarra/Bohol Chronicle)