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Office of the Ombudsman vs Zaldarriaga
G.R. No. 175349 , June 22, 2010
Zaldarriaga was a Municipal Treasurer, COA conducted an audit examination of the accountabilities of Zaldarriaga's cash and accounts covering November 1997 to November 1998. The audit showed a deficiency of P4.7M. Respondent was asked to restitute the deficiency but he failed to do so. COA filed a Letter-Complaint, but Zaldarriaga contested the finding of the COA auditors alleging that it was inaccurate, incorrect, and devoid of merit. The Provincial Treasurer also conducted its own investigation, but its findings did not indicate any shortage but, instead, pointed out that had the mayor, treasurer, and accountant observed the COA Rules, the irregularity would not have been committed.
Two years later, COA conducted another audit examination. Report showed a zero balance during the last examination conducted. Respondent then sought for dismissal of the complaint on the ground that the latest COA report indicated that there was no shortage. However, the Office of the Ombudsman rendered a decision dismissing respondent from government service for dishonesty. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the latter hence the said petition for review on certiorari.
Whether CA erred in holding that the Ombudsman’s dismissal was not based on sufficient evidence.
In administrative cases, the quantum of evidence necessary to find an individual administratively liable is substantial evidence. Substantial evidence does not necessarily mean preponderant proof as required in ordinary civil cases, but such kind of relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion or evidence commonly accepted by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs. The evidence upon which respondents’ administrative liability would be anchored lacked that degree of certainty required in administrative cases, because the two separate audits conducted by the Commission on Audit yielded conflicting results. Evidence of shortage in respondents’ cash and accounts, as alleged in the first audit report, is imperative to hold him liable.
In this case, the evidence against respondent could not be relied upon, because the second audit report, which was favorable to him, necessarily puts into question the reliability of the initial audit findings. Whether the zero balance as appearing in the second audit report was correct or inadvertently indicated, the credibility and accuracy of the two audit reports were already tarnished. Even in administrative cases, a degree of moral certainty is necessary to support a finding of liability.
Petitioner maintains that the zero-balance reflected in the second report, prepared two years after the first audit, cannot negate the finding of cash shortage, considering that second report is defective.
The petition is bereft of merit. In administrative cases, the quantum of evidence necessary to find an individual administratively liable is substantial evidence.
Substantial evidence does not necessarily mean preponderant proof as in civil cases, but such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion or evidence commonly accepted by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs.
Here, the evidence lacked that degree of certainty because the entries in the two audit examinations yielded conflicting results. In the first report, the alleged shortage is 4.7M. However, in the succeeding report was reflected that there was no balance during the last (the first) audit. These discrepancies cannot be ignored. Evidence of shortage is imperative to hold respondent. Here, the evidence could not be relied upon. The second report puts into question the reliability of the first. Whether the zero balance as appearing in the second audit report was correct or inadvertently indicated, the credibility and accuracy of the two reports were already tarnished. A separate and more thorough audit would be required to dispel any uncertainties and to arrive at respondent’s true and correct accountability. The shortage of funds was clearly not indubitably established. Until such audit is conducted, the two audit reports cannot be used to prove or disprove any shortage in respondent’s cash and accounts.
In the instant case, the evidence submitted to conclude that respondent was administratively liable is sorely wanting.