COA to PhilHealth: Return P247.8-M perks
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  The Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered with finality the return of P247.883 million worth of unauthorized allowances and benefits that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) granted its officials and employees from 2007 to 2009.

In two separate decisions dated Dec. 27 and Dec. 28, 2016, released to the media yesterday, the COA Proper panel – composed of chairman Michael Aguinaldo and commissioners Jose Fabia and Isabel Agito – affirmed the 13 notices of disallowance (NDs) issued by the agency’s Corporate Government Sector (CGS) against PhilHealth from 2008 to 2010.

The panel denied the appeal filed by former PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Eduardo Banzon on 11 of the NDs as the petitions for review were filed beyond the reglementary period of six months or 180 days upon the receipt of the decision as provided under the COA rules of procedure and Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

“The NDs, not having been appealed from within the prescribed period, became final and executory, pursuant to Section 51 of PD 1445,” the COA said.

“The right to appeal is a purely statutory right, and he who wants to exercise it must comply with the statute,” it added.

Meanwhile Banzon’s appeal on the two other NDs issued by the COA-CGS were denied by the commission for being “devoid of merit.”

The COA dismissed Banzon’s argument that the P2.244 million Shuttle Service Allowance grant to officials and employees in 2009 is part of the inherent power and autonomy of the PhilHealth Board as provided under Republic Act 7875 or National Health Insurance Act and that the SSA grant was in accordance with the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) executed between the PhilHealth and the PhilHealth Employees Association (PHICEA).

In its ruling, the COA said that while the PhilHealth Board was given authority to grant certain allowances and benefits to its officials and employees, any increase in salary or compensation of government-run firms that are not in accordance with the Salary Standardization Law still requires the approval of the Office of the President.

The COA panel said what was agreed upon in the CNA between the PhilHealth management and the PHICEA was the provision of shuttle service vehicles, not SSAs.

Meanwhile, the COA also dismissed Banzon’s argument that the efficiency gifts (EGs) to employees in 2007 amounting P16.275 million does not require the approval of the OP.

The COA said PhilHealth is required to submit the compensation and allowances of its personnel to the OP.

“All told, there is no reason to reverse the assailed decision as it is clear from the foregoing that the benefits granted by PHIC were not in conformity with the required laws and regulations,” it added.

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