Lower House not done yet with SSS, sets inquiry into state insurer’s financial health

Published February 14, 2021, 11:08 AM

by Ben Rosario

After passing a bill to stop adjustments in member contributions, the House of Representatives appeared not done yet with the Social Security System as a legislative inquiry into its financial condition is set to be launched Monday, February 15.

House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)
House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

Probinsyano Ako Rep. Jose “Bonito” C. Singson Jr, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, disclosed Sunday, February 14 that SSS officials will brief panel members on the financial condition of the state-run insurance firm.

Singson filed House Resolution 1563 calling for a congressional inquiry that will determine “weaknesses and excesses” in the social security program that require amendatory legislation.

Singson said there is urgency in looking into the financial health of the SSS, adding that the House panel expects a full disclosure of all its investments and its management of the pension fund.

“Congress has strengthened and continues to strengthen the SSS for the purpose of aiding the firm  attain its main objectives as set forth in the law and the agency’s implementing rules and regulations,” explained Singson.

He noted that when Congress passed Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018,  its purpose was to expand the powers and duties of the social insurance firm to ensure the long-term viability of the system.”

Among others, the law mandated the SSS to implement a contribution rate hike from the current 12 percent to 13 percent and issued the new schedule of contributions employers and employes effective January 1, 2021.

However, Singson pointed out that the devastating economic and public health effects of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic triggered strong public clamor for deferment of the member contribution adjustment.

On the other hand, the SSS has continued to go against the current of public sentiment, pointing out that deferment of the hike will be averse to the financial health of the state-run firm that could boomerang on the millions of its members.

But previous years’ annual audit reports submitted to Congress by the Commission on Audit pointed to a number of adverse audit observations on the way the SSS has been managing the members’ contribution.

In the 2019 Annual Financial Report for Government Corporations, COA disclosed that SSS is among the top income earners, registering 16.71 percent or P268.101 billion out of the total 1.604 trillion gross earnings of state owned- and -controlled corporations.

    COA, in its 2018 annual audit report for SSS, directed its management to improve the collection mechanism after noting that outstanding membership loans reached P78.95 billion  over a four-year period.

The following year, the state audit agency noted huge overpayments on loans to members which have yet to be refunded.

Audit examiners also disclosed that lack of monitoring related to assessment and collection of delinquencies, at least P186.201 billion in premium contributions of 463,261 have remained uncollected as of December 31, 2019.

Singson said the public accounts panel will dig deep into the issue and weigh carefully pros and cons of the issue.  He  vowed to come up with a well-studied recommendation that will be based on the information, views and proposals of various stakeholders of government’s social security program.