MANILA - The Commission on Audit has reiterated its order to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to return P163.852 million in anniversary and Christmas bonuses and other financial assistance given to employees and officials.
In two decisions of the commission dated January 29, 2018, notices of disallowance were upheld, covering educational assistance and birthday gifts worth P83.062 million and for Christmas, anniversary, and performance incentive bonuses worth P80.790 million.
In 2014, the educational assistance and birthday gifts were given to officials and employees of PhilHealth head office and the regional offices of the National Capital Region and Rizal.
The notice of disallowance was issued in 2015.
The COA said it found the arguments of PhilHealth devoid of merit. Philhealth had argued that the board fixed their own compensation system, the benefits were a product of negotiations between management and employees, reiterating its fiscal autonomy as a government financial institution.
“The main source of PHIC’s operating budget is the contributions of its members. Like any other social insurance, the members’ contributions are treated as a trust fund, and thus, should be managed and protected with utmost integrity,” the COA said in the decision signed by Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose Fabia and Isabel Agito.
The Christmas, anniversary and performance incentive bonuses which were given in 2011 were likewise issued notices of disallowance as they had no legal basis, according to the COA.
But unlike in the other disallowance, only the officials who approved the granting of the benefits are being held liable by the COA and the recipients do not need to return the money they received.
“Without their certifications and approvals, the allowances could not have been possibly availed of by the recipients. On the other hand, the officers and employees who merely received the same benefits in the honest belief that the amounts were due them, are passive recipients or payees who need not refund the amount they received,” the COA said.