P55M yuletide bonus paid by OTS in 2019 irregular: COA

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    THE Commission on Audit has ordered all 1,853 regular and contractual employees of the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) to refund irregular bonuses totaling P55.62 million paid to them in 2019.

    In an audit report released last September 1, government auditors said the grant of yuletide bonus by the OTS violated several existing rules, including Presidential Decree No. 1597 rationalizing the system of compensation and position classification in the national government; Executive order No. 201 s. 2016 covering standard allowances and benefits; and COA Circular No. 2012-003 defining irregular expenditures.

    OTS became controversial in the waning days of the Aquino administration due to the spate of incidents of “tanim-bala” or the planting of live ammunition in the bags or luggage of airport passengers, some of whom later complained of extortion by airport security personnel.

    “The term ‘irregular expenditure’ signifies expenditure incurred without adhering to established rules, regulations, procedural guidelines, policies, principles or practices that have gained recognition in laws,” the COA said.

    It pointed out that there was no supporting document submitted to the audit team to justify the fund disbursement except an unnumbered Memorandum dated December 17, 2019 signed by Administrator Raul del Rosario.

    Based on the breakdown of releases, P36.48 million went to contractual employees while P19.14 million was distributed to regular employees. Each one received P30,000 in cash.

    “This Yuletide bonus was not among those included under the Total Compensation Framework embodied in Congress Joint resolution No. 4 s. 2019. Hence, the payment thereof … (is) considered an irregular expenditure,” the audit team said.

    The management of the OTS was ordered to submit a legal basis or authority for the payment of the said extra compensation to agency personnel.

    “We recommended that the Management require all recipients of the said bonus to immediately refund the amount they received in case the OTS failed to submit legal basis,” the COA added.