The Commission on Audit’s (COA) search for the P306-million endowment fund of the National Museum has led it to two private bank accounts.
But here the mystery deepens. State auditors discovered that the accounts do not carry the museum’s name.
An audit observation memorandum (AOM) sent by the Commission on Audit (COA) through State Auditor Victoria Yumang to National Museum Director Jeremy Barns on June 18, showed that the Museum Endowment Fund (MEF) allegedly transferred to these banks have grown to P331,926,248.99 after the issuance of two manager’s checks worth P25 million—P10 million to Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) and P15 million to Banco De Oro Unibank Inc. (BDO)—on June 3.
The principal amount of P306,926,248.99 was withdrawn from Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) without authorization from the Department of Finance and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
COA is investigating the fund transfer, keeping in mind Section 3 of the National Museum Act of 1998 (R.A. 8492).
The section states that the museum “shall be known by the name of ‘National Museum,’ and by that name shall be known and have perpetual succession with the power, limitations, and restriction hereafter contained and no other.”
To COA, “National Museum” is the official and legal name of the country’s national repository of natural and ethnographic history. If a different name is used, or even if a single word is changed, added or removed, then it can result to loss of investments for the museum.
The MEF accounts in BDO and BPI are under the name National Museum of the Philippines, according to the investment management agreement (IMA) sent by the museum to COA.
COA said that when the museum’s director, board of trustees or other officials use a title or name other than what was provided in the law, it could “cause confusion and doubt, not to mention legal technicalities in the transactions entered into by the ‘National Museum of the Philippines.’”
Using a different name in investing the MEF “in an entity which is different from that created by R.A. 8492” opens the museum director and trustees to criminal liability,” it added.
In the same letter, Yumang asked Barns and museum Chief Administrative Officer Dionisio Pangilinan to explain why they should not be held liable for using “National Museum of the Philippines” as an account name.
“These could have been prevented had proper checks and controls in the handling of the bank deposits been properly installed by the [Museum] officials concerned,” Yumang wrote.
COA asked the officials to change the account’s name to National Museum but they
have yet to comply with the order.
According to a reliable source, the names “National Museum” and “National Museum of the Philippines” are being used interchangeably even in public documents, an indication of an intention to “defraud the government.”
On June 7 this year, COA ordered Barns, Board of Trustees Chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr., Assistant Directors Ana Labrador and Angel Bautista, and Chief Administrative Officer Pangilinan to restitute the MEF as soon as possible.
Not a single centavo of the MEF has been returned. No copies of investment earnings or status reports have been submitted to COA, except for the initial IMA with BPI (dated December 7, 2011) and BDO (dated November 15, 2011), worth P54.8 million and P94,126,248.99, respectively.
The dates of Barns’ memoranda on the placement of the money and the Board of
Trustees resolutions on the MEF do not match.
Based on the documents obtained by The Manila Times, the board issued Resolutions no. 10-2011 and 11-2011 on September 21, 2011 assigning BPI and BDO as “professional fund managers” for the MEF. But Barns’ memo asking Pangilinan to transfer the checks were dated January 16, 2011.
On January 13, 2012, the board issued a resolution (No. 1-2012) authorizing the transfer of managers checks worth P16 million to BPI and P24 million to BDO.
The checks were issued on December 8, 2011.
On April 2, 2011, Barns asked Pangilinan to prepare the checks worth P15.2 million for BPI and P22.8 million to BDO, in accordance to board resolution 6-2012.
This set of checks was issued on April 3, 2012.
Interestingly all the memoranda and resolutions were filed at the museum’s auditor’s office on the same day, April 11, 2012.
The museum director’s office has refused repeated requests by The Times to interview Barns. Instead, its media group faxed a statement and supporting documents to explain their side of the story.
In the statement, Barns hailed the endowment fund as “one of the most significant accomplishments achieved by the National Museum in recent years.”
He said the fund is “fully intact and performing very well in terms of the returns of investments.”
According to the bank certifications of BPI and BDO, the investments are worth P150,647,019.81 and P220,293,067.06, respectively, or a total of P370,940,086.87.
(To be concluded)