COA affirms order telling MWSS to return allowances, benefits

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2017 03:48 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Audit (COA) reaffirmed its earlier decision asking for the return of P73-million worth of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) allowances and fringe benefits.

This applies to all officials, employees and members of the Board of Trustees who received disallowed allowances and benefits in 2009.

In its decision, the COA denied the petition for review filed by MWSS, after declaring that the recipients are not entitled to said additional funds.

The disallowed benefits and allowances include P6.5 million in year-end financial assistance; P5.4 million and P5.6 million in anniversary bonus; P5.8 million in mid-year financial assistance; P1.8 million in family day allowance; P5.7 million in rate rebasing bonus; P6.45 in family week allowance; P6.5 million in performance enhancement incentive; P5.4 million Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCC) incentive for year 2008; P3.9 million and P6.6 million in scholarship allowance; P10.5 million in corporate Christmas package; P1.178 million in monetization of leave credits; P312,000 in Representation Allowance and Transportation Allowance (RATA) for January, February and March 2009; and an additional P686,000 traditional anniversary bonus.

The COA decision reiterated that whatever authority given to MWSS in releasing allowances and benefits are already ineffective.

Instead, the COA pointed out that all disbursement of public funds to government employees and officials should be guided by the Salary Standardization Law (SSL). This means, allowances and benefits should be "authorized by law" and "serve a public purpose."

"As can be gleaned from the above provision of the SSL, whatever authority given by previous law to MWSS prior to the passing of the SSL is already ineffective," COA said.

The audit commission also want all employees who received said allowances and benefits liable.

"In similar decided cases, the employees were not required to refund the disallowed benefits and allowances merely because the Baybay and Blaquera cases were not yet decided by the Supreme Court at the time the benefits were given. However, the disallowed benefits and allowances of the MWSS were given in 2009, in utter disregard of the Supreme Court rulings and the audit observations embodied in the 2007 to 2008 AAR on MWSS. There is already absence of good faith on the part of those who approved and received the subject benefits and allowances. Further, these benefits were already the subject of disallowances in 2000," the COA decision read.

"As such, applying Section 10322 of PD No. 1445,23 the approving and certifying officials of MWSS directly responsible for the unlawful or irregular expenditures shall be liable therefor. Likewise, the payees are under obligation to reimburse the amount they received, as although they committed no fraud in obtaining these benefits, it is against equity and good conscience for them to continue holding on to them," it added.

Meanwhile, the MWSS, through its deputy administrator Atty. Peanuts Santos, said they will not make a statement while their appeal on the COA decision is pending before the Supreme Court.