Resigned Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Cesar Montano is in hot water after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged his “excessive and extravagant” travels, on certain occasions with his executive assistant and private secretary, as well as multimillion-peso sponsorships for concerts and advertising contracts.
In its 2017 audit report on the TPB, the state audit agency flagged projects done under the leadership of Montano, who President Rodrigo Duterte appointed in December 2016 but who resigned in May this year.
Montano traveled 14 times for 91 days while his Deputy Chief Operating Officer traveled 16 times for 113 days to parts of Asia, Europe, Australia and North America, incurring expenses amounting to P2.277 million and P1.958 million, respectively.
The travels were deemed by government auditors as “excessive” as most of the time, Montano was with his private secretary and executive assistant who incurred an additional P2.995 million.
Business class tickets amounting to P594,000 for Montano's two travels were also supposedly in violation of a 2004 executive order, unless otherwise authorized by the President.
“We have noted that frequent travels were undertaken by TPB officials since their mandate is to market Philippine tourism local and abroad. However, as an austerity measure and in consonance with Section 50 of RA No. 9593 (Tourism Act of 2009), the TPB should find ways to minimize the cost and optimize the performance of duties of its officers and employees for an effective and efficient organization,” the COA said.
The COA report did not include an exit interview regarding the travels of Montano, who resigned following the controversial P80-million Buhay Carinderia contract TPB entered into early this year.
The TPB is an agency attached to the Department of Tourism, which was headed by Wanda Teo, who also resigned this year.
The COA also questioned the P11.2-million concert entitled “Fusion 2017: Forward, the Philippine Music Festival Year 3” which Montano approved even without the required approval of the TPB Board of Directors.
The TPB said the project did not require the signature of the chairman of the board because it involved amounts less than P5 million, but government auditors disagreed.
Financial sponsorship for other events such as Make Your Move for Marawi Let’s Go Dance Competition, Musiko 2017, Mother’s Day Fun Run: Takbo Para sa Ilaw ng Tahanan, Padyak Palawan, 4th Musica Sacra and US Independence Day Charity Golf Tournament totaling P7 million were also questioned as the events were not related to tourism promotion.
The TPB told government auditors that Musiko 2017 was an international competition of bands with delegates from other countries bringing in tourism receipts.
The audit report also questioned the lack of guidelines in granting financial sponsorship to organizers amounting to P58.169 million, including the P12.034-million Philippine Exhibits and Theme Parks Corporation project for the revival of Intramuros in Manila as a tourist destination.
The report mentioned Teo who supposedly ordered her undersecretaries to “extend full support” to the project.
TPB also hired a company which gave training on leadership for a contract price of P78,400, but its management said the training was necessary to “expose the newly assumed officers of the agency on sales training, marketing, consulting and executive coaching in leadership.”
The report also said Montano entered into a negotiated procurement for the hiring of entertainers from a losing bidder for a P1-million contract for the Intramuros revival project.
TPB management told government auditors that Montano believes he implemented the project “in good faith” and requests “an impartial audit” on the project.
In his resignation letter to Duterte dated May 22, 2018, Montano said he is tendering his resignation in “faithful adherence” to his duty as a public servant.
He also said the grants of sponsorship done by TPB, such as the funding of the Buhay Carinderia project, are “regular” activities done by the agency for tourism promotion.
COA calls out Cesar Montano's 'excessive' travels and multimillion-peso projects
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent