BAGUIO CITY – The National Electrification Administration (NEA) on Wednesday announced the removal of all members of the Benguet Electric Cooperative's (Beneco) board of directors (BOD) over misuse of funds.
“Let this serve as a warning to all those who seek to take advantage of their positions and the member consumer-members that there will be no sacred cows under my administration… I intend to exhaust any and all means under the law to ensure that people managing our electric cooperatives do not abuse their positions,” NEA administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda said in a press briefing.
This came after the NEA conducted a financial and management audit of the cooperative.
Almeda, citing audit findings from 2018 to 2021, said BOD members Esteban Somngi, Rocky Aliping, Enrique Moresto, Jonathan Obar, Robert Valentin, Josephine Tuling, Luke Gomeyac, Peter Busaing, Jeffred Acop, Mike Maspil and James Aclopen “unduly received benefits and allowances, availed of and mismanaged substantial loans to the detriment of Beneco, as well as amended the terms and payment for several of its service providers without the required approval of NEA, among others".
Beneco is a triple-A category electric distributor serving Baguio City and Benguet.
The NEA also found irregularities in the Beneco board’s PHP160 million investment in the Rural Electrification and Financing Corp. and in the procurement of street poles from Industrial Galvanizers Corp. amounting to over PH7 million.
It also discovered an irregularity in the amendment to the terms of payment to the MN Electro Industrial Supplies and Services, the supplier of equipment and manpower for Beneco's PHP87.2 million electrification project in 79 sitios.
The audit's findings, which became the basis to disqualify Beneco's board members, also stressed the board's continued violation of NEA guidelines on the grant of benefits and allowances.
The NEA also noted that the Beneco board continued to defy its recommendation that the disbursement of the corporate social responsibility fund must be coursed through the cooperative's institutional services department.
The audit also found abuses in the signing privileges granted to the Beneco board and the issuance of a resolution granting cash advances.
Likewise, the NEA's order included the concerned board members' disqualification for reinstatement or reemployment in any electric cooperative. They were also ordered to refund the disallowed amount of benefits and allowances they received to Beneco.
The NEA also meted a 45-day suspension on Beneco assistant manager Melchor Licoben, internal auditor Brenda Carling and engineering manager Rocky Pallogan.
Almeda will serve as the project supervisor of Beneco pending the election and appointment of a regular manager and the BOD.
Almeda also announced the installation of officer-in-charge (OIC) manager Ramil Rifani, the current systems connection manager of Beneco for six months, and five persons -- Steve Cating, George Dumawing Jr., Rodolfo de Guia, Elma Donaal and Joaquin Depalog as members of the interim BOD whose tasks will be to primarily normalize the operation of the electric cooperative and to conduct an election for the composition of a permanent board of directors.
He said the order is immediately executory.
Almeda said two teams have been deployed to start an audit at the main office of the Beneco along South Drive and the interim office of NEA-appointed general manager Marie Rafael.
"I hope that stability is brought back to Beneco. I call on member consumer owners to support this development as such are undertaken for their benefit,” he added. (PNA)