PhilHealth Region 4A must refund P37.5M unauthorized perks: COA

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    THE Commission on Audit has affirmed 18 notices of disallowance issued against various allowances and benefits paid by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealht)-Region 4A in 2012 and 2013 to its officials and employees.

    In an eight-page decision dated November 22, 2019 but released only last Tuesday, the COA Commission Proper denied the petition for review filed by PhilHealth Region 4A that sought lifting of the NDs.

    A notice of disallowance carries a requirement that those who are found liable must return the amount deemed unauthorized or lacking in legal basis.

    Among the disallowed perks were rice allowances, shuttle service allowances, productivity/performance incentive bonus, and birthday gift under the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) between the agency management and the PhilHealth Employees Association.

    Also covered by the order for refund were medical and mission critical allowance, special representation allowances, transportation allowance, sustenance gift, and contractor’s gift approved by the PhilHealth Board through resolutions and office orders.

    “The CNA benefits given to employees of PhilHealth were not proper subject of negotiation, as it encompassed an increase of emoluments and other allowances not presently provided by law,” the COA said.

    Petitioners’ contention that PhilHealth’s fiscal autonomy gave its Board of Directors to fix the compensation of agency personnel was swept aside as COA chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc held that RA 7875 or the PhilHealth Charter required strict compliance with the limit on administrative cost.

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

    The ruling also did not exclude rank-and-file employees from liability even if they claimed having received the allowances in good faith.

    “To claim good faith, the employees should not have any iota of knowledge that the subject benefits were irregular. Such is not the case in this petition. They had knowledge of the irregularity of the benefits because disallowances of the same nature had been previously issued in 2009,” the Commission pointed out.