Beneco execs seek audit of payment collections

Photo courtesy of Beneco

September 5, 2022

All of the 82 collection agents of the Benguet Electric Cooperative, – the sole franchise to operate an electric power service in Baguio City and Benguet province – remit their payments to the group of former Beneco acting head, Engr. Melchor Licoben.

This, according to a letter of Beneco general manager Ana Marie Rafael and Board Members dated 2
8 August to Baguio City Rep. Mark O. Go, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong, Vice Mayor Faustino A. Olowan, and the Baguio City Council.

It showed that all payment centers remit their daily collections to the group of Licoben. These are Beneco headquarters on South Drive, Baguio City, Maharlika Livelihood Complex in Baguio City, Bonuan Condominium in Barangay Salud Mitra, Baguio City, Beneco Building on Km. 4, La Trinidad, Benguet, and Beneco Bekes, Abatan, Buyacaoan, Benguet and all the private collecting agents.

“In fact, since the system/program that holds the records of all payments of consumers are at the South Drive office, they can manipulate the system and not post any payments made to banks or online transactions such as GCash, even if the Bayad Center deposits all of these collections with Chinabank,” the letter read.

Amid claims of Licoben’s group that the cooperative’s cash flow has been greatly impacted, Beneco officials sought the addressees’ interference saying that millions of collections are made daily which is sufficient to cover the cooperative’s obligations.

“Based on the Joint Statement of NEA (National Electrification Administration) and CDA (Cooperative Development Authority), may we request the Council to request the group of Engr. Licoben to account for the expenses which were used in their published General Assemblies since all of those assemblies were not sanctioned by NEA and CDA thus, they must be accountable,” the letter added.

The Beneco officials also requested the City Council to inquire about the questionable outstanding previous loan of P81,074,671.50 from the Developmental, Bank of the Philippines credit line but for an unspecified purpose, and another P309 million loan with DBP for the Man-asok Mini Hydro in Buguias, Benguet.

They assured that accounts in the banks are secured and remain untouched.

“The banks that opted to file a case with the courts and those who have chosen to freeze have not given us a statement of accounts,” the officials said to clear out all false and misleading claims made by the camp of Mr. Licoben that has confused Beneco member-consumers.
Contrary to allegations that Beneco has been “controlling and manipulating” the funds of the cooperative causing default in paying the power supplier, the officials said Beneco has a balance even before the 20 July 2022 filing of China Bank with the courts.

The alleged Php58,620,715.04 million for the MN Electro project contract is still sitting in the Beneco account with Landbank of the Philippines and shall be paid only after all the sitios covered by the contract shall have been energized, in compliance with NEA audit findings.
Rafael’s appointment as Beneco general manager, instead of Licoben, was approved on 29 July 2021by by the NEA Board of Administrators based on the legal opinion rendered by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

OGCC legal opinion said Licoben had exposed his lack of integrity and probity for not relinquishing his post that had impacted his fitness to head, citing that under NEA Memorandum 2017-035, an officer-in-charge GM shall relinquish his OIC designation as mandatory.

NEA Board Resolution No. 2021-47 selected Rafael who has a higher score during the final interview. Licoben scored 82.75 percent while Rafael drew a 94-percent mark.

“We do not want our cooperative to be maligned by certain unscrupulous individuals. Let it be known that the rule of law has been blatantly ignored,” added the letter which was also signed by Beneco chairperson Luke B. Gomeyac, Treasurer Rocky. M. Aliping, Secretary Enrique S. Moresto, and Board Member James. Aclopen.

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