COA tells PhilHealth to refund P56M unauthorized allowances

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    THE Commission on Audit (COA) has required officials and employees of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) regional office 8 to refund P56.58 million in unauthorized allowances paid to them in 2012.

    In a decision dated September 19, 2019 but released only yesterday, the COA Commission Proper affirmed notices of disallowance issued on May 13, 2013 against the allowances and junked the motion for reconsideration filed by PhilHealth region 8 through regional vice president Walter Bacareza.

    Invoking the Supreme Court pronouncements in the case of SSS versus COA, the Commission Proper held that no vested or acquired rights can arise from acts which are against the law.

    “The officials who authorized/approved/certified the grant or payment and the recipient-employees cannot be deemed in good faith, as the laws and rules requiring approval from OP (Office of the President) and the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) was already existent prior to their issuances of the subject allowances,” the COA said.

    Records showed the audit team flagged the payment of the extra compensation on the ground that the disbursement failed to secure prior approval from the OP as required under Administrative Order No. 365 series of 1997 of the DBM.

    The P56.58 million consisted of 15 different kinds of allowances and cash gifts including P10.97 million productivity incentive allowance, P10.72 million educational assistance, P9.54 million Christmas package, P7.25 million welfare support allowance, P5.59 million shuttle service allowance, P3.797 million corporate transition and achievement, and P3.796 million grocery allowance.

    Held liable were PhilHealth regional vice president Jerry Ibay (January to May 2012) and r Bacareza (June to December 2012), division chief Renato Limsiaco, OIC division chief Arlan Granali, fiscal controllers Archimedes Villasin and Benjamin Gabrieles, planning officer Chona Solarta, and recipient officials and employees.

    PhilHealth executives defended the fattened paychecks claiming former president Gloria Arroyo had already confirmed the fiscal authority of the agency twice, first in 2006 and again in 2008.

    Likewise, they asserted the fiscal autonomy of PhilHealth under its Charter or RA 7875 giving its Board of Directors the power to grant benefits and allowances to agency personnel without need of OP approval.

    They added that all PhilHealth personnel should not be held liable since they received the allowances and cash gifts in good faith.

    “The main source of PhilHealth’s operating budget comes from the contributions of its members. Like any other social insurance, the members’ contributions are treated as a trust fund, and thus, should be managed and protected with utmost integrity,” the COA said.