COA confirms findings against former, incumbent PhilHealth officials

Published July 16, 2019, 8:30 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Ben Rosario

The Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered former and incumbent regional officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to refund to the government over P34 million in illegal bonuses distributed to employees in 2009 and 2012.

Commission on Audit (MANILA BULLETIN)

In two separate decisions released recently, the Commission on Audit-Commission Proper affirmed the notices of disallowances (NDs) issued against two PhilHealth regional offices, upholding the findings of audit teams that declared the payments illegal.

Chairman Michael Aguinaldo, together with Commissioners Jose Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc, junked the petitions for review filed by the PhilHealth National Capital Region that argued against the notice of disallowance in the payment of P22.447 million in Productivity Incentive Bonuses in 2009.

In another ruling, the three-man COA-CP also rejected the appeal of PhilHealth Region 12 that justified the grant of cash stipend to employees in 2012.

The COA CP said the petitions for review filed separately by the PhilHealth regional offices were already on default,

The panel stressed that the PhilHealth units have already exhausted the reglementary period of 180 days for a full appeal, hence the notices of disallowance have already become final and executory.

“In the interest of equity and justice, this Commission allows a liberal interpretation of the rules, so long as the petitioner is able to prove the existence of cogent reasons. In this case, there exists no justifiable reason to relax the rules on filing an appeal,” the COA explained.

However, the COA body pointed out that even if the appeals were filed on time, the notices of disallowances will still be affirmed.

“At any rate, even if the Petitions for Review is to be decided on the merits, it will still be denied because the payment of PIB …lacked the requisite prior approval from the Office of the President,” the Commission pointed out.

COA issued three earlier decisions this year all affirming disallowances on the grant of different bonuses and allowances against PhilHealth.

In decisions made in June 11, the Commission has already affirmed disallowances on PhilHealth cash perks totaling P193.58 million.

It will be recalled that on  February 20, the COA upheld disallowed P20.072 million paid out by PhilHealth Region 4A as “rice allowance, birthday gift, medical mission and critical allowance, special representation allowance, shuttle service allowance, transportation assistance, contractor’s gift, sustenance gift, and withholding taxes.

The ruling was followed by a May 23, 2019 decision against the appeal filed by former PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Alexander Padilla seeking the lifting of NDs against the payment of hazard pay, and subsistence and laundry allowance amounting to P91.156 million in 2012.

On May 24, the Commission ruled against PhilHealth Region 4B’s payment of various allowances and benefits to its officials and employees totaling P48.318 million in 2012.

The barred perks and bonuses  included rice allowances, birthday gifts, shuttle service allowance, educational assistance allowance, grocery allowance, laundry allowance, hazard pay, labor-management relation gratuity, subsistence allowance, Christmas assistance package, efficiency gift, project completion incentive, contractor’s gift, sustenance gift and sustenance adjustment, transportation allowance, gratuity gift, anniversary gift, Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) benefit, and special event gift for special project.