Amit v. COA (G.R. No. 176172; November 20, 2012)


CASE DIGEST: EFREN G. AMIT, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON AUDIT, REGIONAL OFFICE NO. VI, OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN (VISAYAS), and THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, Respondents.

FACTS: 
The Commission on Audit (COA) conducted a special audit on the Multi-Purpose Drying Pavement (MPDP) project conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA). COA discovered that eleven (11) government employees were allegedly responsible for ghost projects and misappropriation of public funds. Thus, COA administratively charged them before the Ombudsman including petitioner Efren Amit who was a Senior Agriculturist of the DA whose functions include the approval of MPDP project documents.

The Ombudsman found all the officials so charged guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty for conspiring in the falsification of documents to facilitate the disbursement and misappropriation of the funds intended for the MPDP projects. In some of the vouchers, the signatures of certain officials were forged. It was also discovered that the vouchers and checks for the MPDP project were released without proper authorization to certain beneficiaries. The Ombudsman concluded that the employees conspired with one another to facilitate the disbursement and misappropriation of funds intended for the MPDP project.

Amit appealed to the CA. The CA denied the petition and ruled that Amits approval of the documents in question is not merely ministerial. Amit moved to reconsider the denial of his petition but the CA denied the motion. Hence, the present petition.

ISSUE: 


Is Amit liable for falsification of documents and misappropriation of public funds?

HELD: 
First, Amit's acts did not result from a mere failure to exercise the necessary prudence in complying with the proper procedure. The performance of the complained acts was discretionary on his part. Amit's acts were done willfully and deliberately. Amit, for instance, inexplicably signed the issue slips despite his alleged knowledge that these documents were unnecessary.With Amit's signing of the documents, however, the immediate release of the funds was facilitated.

Second, the Ombudsman's finding of conspiracy reveals the crucial role which Amit played in the commission of fraud with other officials. Amit's role in the committed irregularities shows his concurrence although based on circumstantial, not direct, evidence with the other officials objective to defraud the government. The irregularities will not see their fruition if Amit and the other officials involved in the fraud did not consent to its implementation by making it appear that there were valid requisitions, deliveries, inspections, pre-auditing and approval of the vouchers and checks paid to the contractors/suppliers. These acts pointed to one (1) criminal intent with one participant performing a part of the transaction and the others performing other parts of the same transaction to complete the whole scheme, with a view of attaining the object which they were pursuing.

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Third, Amits defense the alleged reliance on the acts of his subordinates in good faith is simply unacceptable. Public office is a public trust and public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives.

Fourth, Amit did not wholly rely on the acts of his subordinates. As earlier mentioned, he performed functions using independent judgment. Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer. As differentiated from simple misconduct, in grave misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest. Corruption as an element of grave misconduct consists in the officials unlawful and wrongful use of his station or character [reputation] to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others.

DENIED

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