THE Commission on Audit (COA) has denied the appeal of 10 Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) officials for the lifting of notices of disallowance (NDs) issued in 2013 against their car plan amounting to P10.15 million.
In a five-page decision issued last January 29, the COA Commission Proper overruled the PhilRice officials’ claim that they acted in good faith when they availed of the PhilRice car plan from 2009 to 2011, and that requiring them to refund the disallowed sum is tantamount to unjust enrichment on the part of the government.
Under the car plan, it was PhilRice that paid the monthly amortization for a period of three years by way of rental fees released to officials who availed of the benefit.
The COA noted that, in effect, the lease transaction covers a period of three years, which is a violation of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Circular No. 446-95 that requires prior clearance from the DBM secretary when a motor vehicle rental exceeds 15 days.
Likewise, it gave no credence to the respondents’ argument that the car scheme was a means to save the agency the cost of acquiring vehicles and maintaining the fleet.
“Movants’ argument… is devoid of merit. On the contrary, the car benefit plan and the car rental scheme constitute indirect procurement of vehicles which circumvent the provision of competitive bidding,” the COA said.
“A basic rule is that, what cannot be legally done directly cannot be done indirectly; otherwise, all laws would be illusory,” the commission said.
Held liable were PhilRice officers Ronilo Beronio, Sophia Borja, Sergio Francisco, Rolando Cruz, Evangeline Sibayan, Artemio Vasallo, Mario Movillion, Manuel Gaspar, Rodolfo Escabarte, and Edgar Libertario.