NEA resolves Beneco leadership dispute

BAGUIO CITY: The leadership struggle at the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) has finally been resolved. The National Electrification Administration (NEA) decided to remove all members of the board, suspend some officials and terminate the general manager’s appointment.

NEA Administrator Mariano Almeda said that the dismissal of the board of directors and the suspension of some Beneco officers were caused by the adverse findings and observations on the financial and management audit done on the electric cooperative from January 2018 to Dec. 31, 2020.

It was found out that some transactions by the electric cooperative were considered unfavorable to Beneco.

Furthermore, the audit findings and observations include the availment of a loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines for the investment of P160 million to the Rural Electrification and Financing Corp. With this, the electric cooperative incurred unwarranted interest. There were also issues with amendment to the terms of payment with MN Electro Industrial Supply and Services Inc. to supply materials, labor and handling for the electrification projects of 79 sitios in the franchise area amounting to P87.2 million.

Other issues include the procurement of steel poles from Industrial Galvanizers Corp. of the Philippines where the prices were higher than the 2018 NEA price index; the continuous defiance of the board of NEA guidelines in granting benefits and allowances; the continuous defiance of the board to audit recommendation that the disbursement of corporate social responsibility fund should be coursed through the cooperative’s institutional services department; the signing privilege of the board was approved without NEA’s approval; and the granting of cash advance to board members.

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The dismissed members included lawyer Esteban Somngi, Rocky Aliping, Enrique Moresto, Jonathan Obar, Robert Valentin, Josephine Tuling, Luke Gomeyac, Peter Busaing, Jeffred Acop, Mike Maspil and James Aclopen.

The suspended Beneco officers are engineer Melchor Licoben, incumbent general manager; Brenda Carling, Internal Audit head; and engineer Rocky Pallogan, former manager of the Non-Network Services Department.

The NEA also recalled and revoked the probationary appointment of former Presidential Communications Operations Office assistant secretary Ana Marie Rafael because the status of Beneco as a Class AAA cooperative was downgraded to Class C during her term.

In turn, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla designated Almeda as the project supervisor of Beneco.

As project supervisor, Almeda is tasked to supervise the management and operation of the electric cooperative to ensure the delivery of electric service to its member-consumer-owners (MCOs) as well as to approve or disapprove Beneco board resolutions.

At the same time, Almeda designated engineer Ramel Rifani, incumbent manager of Beneco’s Non-Network Services Department, as the acting general manager (GM) for six months or until a regular GM had been appointed.

As the acting GM, Rifani will manage the day-to-day operations of the electric cooperative to ensure the efficient delivery of electric service to the MCOs, exercise powers to hire, fire, approve and disapprove personnel employment and movement, subject to the prior approval of the Task Force Beneco, acting as the electric cooperative’s Board of Directors and confirmation of the project supervisor; sign or countersign checks, withdrawal slips, and other banking transactions for and in behalf of the cooperative with all banks where Beneco has an account and perform such other tasks or duties that may be assigned or directed by the NEA for the purpose of operational efficiency.

Moreover, Almeda also ordered the creation of Task Force Beneco composed of representatives from multisectoral groups to serve as the electric cooperative’s interim board of directors for six months or until such time that the new members shall have been elected by the MCOs.

Serving as chairman of the task force is Steve Cating representing the business sector while the members will be lawyer George Dumawing from the consumer/professional sector, Rodolfo de Guia from the religious sector, Dr. Elma Donaal from the academe and Joaquin Geronimo Depalog Jr. from the agriculture sector.

The Task Force Beneco chairman and the acting general manager shall serve as signatories in the issuance of checks, withdrawal slips and other banking transactions of Beneco with all its depository banks.

Subsequently, actions, decisions or resolutions of the task force shall be subject to the confirmation of the NEA.

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