Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Zamboanga electric cooperative head sacked

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 15, 2011) – The head of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative has been sacked by the National Electrification Administration over anomalous transactions involving millions of pesos in funding.

Many of its incumbent and former board directors were also removed and disqualified from holding any position in rural electric cooperatives in the country.

NEA’s decision was based on its investigations earlier this year on the power firm after an independent group called Movement for Better ZAMCELCO accused the officials of anomalous transactions over the purchase of luxury cars, band equipment and sound system, among others.

Those charged were ZAMCELCO Board of Directors Rolando Gregorio, Leomir Toribio, Tito Espiritusanto, Emias Alviar, Aida Nuno Loong, Ronald Maravilla, and former board members Noel Tarazona, Alexis Ortega and Efigenio Julian, Jr. and General Manager Reinerio Ramos.

It was not immediately known whether criminal charges would be filed against them, but there is a strong clamor to pursue the case in court.

Ramos’ retirement benefits were also forfeited by the NEA whose ruling said: “All respondents are hereby found guilty of repeated violation and non-compliance to NEA issuances, memoranda and other rules and regulations for which we impose the penalty of removal.”

“As a necessary consequence of the penalty of removal, pursuant to Section 3, Rule VII of the Rules of Procedure of the NEA, the said respondents are perpetually disqualified from holding office in any rural electric cooperative.”

Records show that ZAMCELCO, through negotiated purchase, acquired a 10 MVA substation for P33 Million while the 2010 NEA price index for it was only P24,468,449.57.

It also purchased 34 brand new KIA vehicles – 20 units in 2009 and another 14 units in 2010 – and ten of them were Sportage luxury vehicles, and was allegedly overpriced by over P5 million and the acquisition of a piece of land in Talon-Talon village for some P2,500 per square meter which was not in accordance with the current real estate price; acquisition from Park 88 restaurant of used lighting and sound system, including a band equipment worth more P1 million, and several other questionable transactions.

Local business and civil groups, and politicians questioned the extravagant spending of the power firm despite its ballooning debts which is now P1 billion.

The power firm was also criticized after announcing that it would raise electric rates and pass on to consumers the millions of its unpaid taxes charged by the local government. Electric consumers have been complaining about the high cost of power rates and asked the NEA to investigate the purchases and other dealings of the cooperative.

Ramos and Gregorio and the cooperative’s board of director have repeatedly denied all allegations against them and said all their transactions were legal and sanctioned by the NEA which has denied it. NEA has installed Engineer Jesus Castro as Project Supervisor to oversee the operation of the cooperative. (Mindanao Examiner)

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