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CoA orders PhilHealth to return P247.9-M allowances

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INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA — The Commission on Audit has ordered the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to return P247.88 million in unauthorized benefits given to its employees.

In two separate decisions, the CoA affirmed the 13 notices of disallowance issued from January 2009 to April 2010 on various employee bonuses and allowances.

The CoA did not even discuss 11 of these NDs covering P229.36 million. It rejected outright the petitions of former president and chief executive officer Eduardo Banzon because they were elevated to the commission proper beyond the allowable 180-day period.

“Having attained finality, the decision is immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect,” the CoA said.

Meanwhile, it affirmed the disallowance of P16.28 million paid to employees as an “efficiency gift” for the year 2007, on the ground of lack of approval from the Office of the President.

The CoA rejected Philhealth’s argument that it was exempted from the Salary Standardization Law and had autonomy to grant the benefits by virtue of the National Health Insurance Act of 1995.

According to the COA decision, the authority of the Philhealth board of directors to fix their own compensation and position classification system is “not absolute,” because it is “still duty bound to observe guidelines and policies” and report its compensation plans to the President to ensure compliance with the law.

The CoA said Philhealth could not claim to be in good faith, because Section 6 of Presidential Decree No. 1597 required it to secure first the approval of the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management. It also noted that “the officials are not in good faith due to previous NDs” on similar allowances.

Although Philhealth employees might be in good faith, the CoA added that the “one who receives something by mistake has the obligation to return it” under Articles 2154 and 2160 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

As for the P2.24 million paid as “shuttle service assistance” for the year 2009, the CoA affirmed that it was an “additional allowance” prohibited under Item b, Section 3 of Administrative Order No. 103, which suspended increased benefits to the employees of government corporations.

Although the order allowed the grant of additional benefits under a valid collective negotiation agreement, the CoA noted that Philhealth’s CNA actually established the shuttle service itself—but not its conversion into an allowance.

“There is a clear distinction between the shuttle service and the SSA,” the decision read. “The former partakes of a service vehicle for the comfort and convenience of its officers and employees in commuting to and from the office chargeable against the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) while the latter is a form of monetary benefit charged against Personal Services.”  SFM

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