SSS officials told: Refund P17.88M Xmas bonus, extra pay

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    THE Commission Audit has denied a petition for review filed by the Social Security System (SSS) seeking the lifting of the notice of disallowance (ND) issued against the grant of Christmas gift/bonus, short term variable pay (STVP), and bank certificate amounting to P17.885 million paid to agency officials and employees.

    In its decision dated August 9, 2019 but released only last September 2, the COA Commission Proper upheld the 2015 ruling of the Corporate Government Sector-Cluster 2 which affirmed the validity of the notice of disallowance issued on April 20, 2012 against the extra compensation.

    The audit team, the cluster director, and the COA Commission Proper composed of Chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc all found that the said stipends “constitute irregular payments” and were properly disallowed in audit.

    Auditors said the P17.885 million was paid to officials and employees assigned with the SSS South Luzon Cluster based in San Pablo City, Laguna. The amount was part of the P338.07 million excess expenses on the Corporate Operating Budget of the SSS approved by the Department of Budget and management in 2010.

    “Consistent with the foregoing, the obligation to refund the payment received falls upon those directly responsible, i.e. the approving/certifying officers, and those who actually received the disallowed benefits,” the COA said.

    However, the COA-CP clarified that rank and file personnel need not refund the extra compensation based on the ruling of the Supreme Court in Faustino A. Silang v. Commission on Audit that passive recipients need not return the money having received the benefit in good faith.

    Those held liable for the disallowance are SSS assistant vice president and SSS-Luzon South cluster head Aida Delos Santos-Rubia and finance chief Aurea Peñaloza.

    In addition, the COA directed the audit team to review the records and determine if members of the SSS Board of Trustees should likewise be held liable for their participation in granting the questioned benefits.