SSS officials held liable for approval, distribution of P186.57 M in benefits

Published August 16, 2019, 5:43 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Ben Rosario

Former and incumbent officials of the Social Security System have been held liable for the distribution of P186.57 million in allowances and benefits to themselves and employees of the private sector insurance firm.

The Commission on Audit-Commission Proper issued the order after resolving a motion for reconsideration filed by the concerned officials in connection with the notice of disallowances the audit agency issued in 2015.

MB FILE - The facade of SSS Building on East Avenue in Quezon City. (JOHN JEROME GANZON / MANILA BULLETIN)
The facade of SSS Building on East Avenue in Quezon City. (JOHN JEROME GANZON / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

However, the three-man COA-CP cleared employees of SSS-Main Office as passive recipients of the disallowed benefits and for having no role in the approval of the distributed financial benefits in 2010.

Records of the case showed that the COA Corporate Government Sector Cluster 2 affirmed in 2015 the Notice of Disallowance covering disbursements of P110,897,671.18 made by the SSS-Main Office to cover allowances and benefits that turned out to be in excess of the Corporate Budget covering 2010.

It was noted that in 2010, SSS paid a total P674,663,000 for various allowances and benefits to SSS officials and employees.  It turned out that there was a P338 million in excess payment made for personnel services for the said year.

A review of the disallowance of P110,897,671.18 out of the P338 million excess payment was sought by the petitioners.  The amount covered benefits and allowances received by employees of SSS Main Office.

Held liable for the disallowance were then Commissioners Thelmo Cunanan, Marianito Roque, Jose Sonny G. Matula, Victorino F. Balais, Donald Dee, Marianita Mendoza, Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. and Fe Panlilio; human resources chief Aurea G. Bay and section head Joselito de Los Reyes; Asst. Vice President Amelita de la Torre, and SSS employees.

In seeking for a reversal of the notice of disallowance, SSS stressed that it has the power to fix the compensation, allowances and other benefits of its employees.

The COA-CP said the increase in the personnel services budget from 2000 to 2010 was meant only to allow the SSS to accommodate the cost of paying 30 newly-hired personnel, 706 absorbed job order personnel and 1,384 positions for promotion.

Citing letters of the Department of Budget and Management that were submitted by SSS to defend its position, the panel noted that the DBM had indeed reconsidered P2.47 million as additional confirmation ceiling on the grant of rice subsidy.

With regards to other items in the notice of disallowance that included special counsel allowance, P4.374 million; overtime pay, P34.443 million; and short term variable pay, P163.49 million, DBM was not convinced these should be reconsidered.

“In view of the reconsidered amount of P2,476,638.00 as additional confirmation ceiling on the grant of rice subsidy and P149,020,000 paid as bank certificates, the total agency-wide disallowance of SSS amounting to P338,070,900.45 is hereby reduced to P186,574,262.26,” the COA CP headed by Chairman Michael Aguinaldo ruled.

Officials who authorized, approved and certified the grant of payment were held “solidarily liable for the total disallowed amount.”

“However, the passive recipients of the disallowed allowances and benefits may be considered in good faith.  They took no part and were not directly responsible for approving the transactions,” the COA body ruled.

The Audit Team Leader was ordered to determine the amount of disallowance that will be charged to the SSS-Main office which filed the petition for review.