COA: Panay Railways execs paid selves double per diem rates

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    THE Commission on Audit has demanded explanations from the Board of Directors of the Panay Railways Inc., a government-owned or controlled corporation (GOCC) undergoing abolition, for paying themselves allowances, raising their per diems for meetings twice since 2018, and charging P1.985 million expenses against the proceeds of the sale of a company property.

    In a 2019 audit report, government auditors said the PRI Board passed Resolution No. 314 on March 22, 2018 paying each board member P6,500 monthly as representation and transportation allowances (RATA) and P8,000 for the chairman.

    They noted that under Executive Order No. 24 and Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) memorandum circular No. 2016-10, only reimbursable expenses are allowed while the payment of RATA was not provided.

    In all, the COA disallowed P340,000 in unauthorized allowances of the BOD.

    Held liable in the disallowance were Board chairman Antonio Balgos and members Averill Amor, Cesar Capellan, Juan Catalan, Saturnino Mejia, Garded Chan, and Eduardo Pilapil.

    In the same Resolution, the PRI Board increased their per diem rate from P5,000 to P10,000 per meeting. In another meeting on July 28, 2018, the chairmen of the board and the executive committee got another 20 percent increase in their per diems.

    The COA said both increases were of doubtful legality and validity since they were contrary to E.O. 24 and GCG MC 2016-10.

    In its reply to the audit findings, the Board said it has already stopped the payment of RATA as of November 2019 in compliance with the notice of disallowance.

    However, it defended the increase in per diems, saying there is legal basis for it under GCG MC 2016-01 which provides for the compensation framework of GOCCs.

    The COA insisted that the adjustment of per diem rates is invalid unless done with prior approval from the GCG.