This time, COA targets PEZA
MANILA, Philippines - It's PEZA's turn, or the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
The Commission on Audit rejected appeals by PEZA officials and employees and ordered them to refund a total of P20,438,750.00 in excessive Christmas bonuses they received from 2005 to 2008.
In a six-page decision released last January 20, COA said the PEZA Board of Directors bypassed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Office of the President when it approved board resolutions in November 2005 and September 2006 for an across-the-board increase in cash gifts/Christmas bonuses.
Just recently, COA ordered officials and employees from 31 government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs) to reimburse the government for P2.3 billion, the sum of unauthorized stipends paid to workers in those GOCCs in 2012.
The COA's findings showed 31 GOCCs paid "bonus(es), allowances, and benefits to the board of directors and employees without or in excess of legal basis or proper authority."
Aside from discontinuing those practices, the COA wants the GOCCs to reimburse the government for a total of P2,313,486,000.
In a separate order released on January 20, COA said it had rejected appeals by PEZA to reconsider an earlier decision to disallow bonuses.
Based on records, PEZA gave out Christmas bonuses of P50,000 per employee every year from 2000 to 2004. In 2005, it granted P60,000 per employee; in 2006 and 2007, at least P70,000 per employee; and in 2008, at least P75,000 per employee.
The total of questioned cash gift adjustments has amounted to P20.44 million by the time COA stepped in to disallow practice.
Notices of disallowance were issued in May 2010 citing lack of Presidential or DBM approval as required under Memorandum Order No. 20, series of 2001.
PEZA officials challenged the disallowances claiming the hike in their Christmas bonuses did not need presidential confirmation.
The COA-Corporate Government Sector (CGS) Cluster Director overruled PEZA’s arguments in a ruling issued on Aug 31, 2011, saying presidential imprimatur is mandatory as declared under MO Mo. 20, Presidential Decree No. 1597 and Administrative Order No. 103.
Undaunted, PEZA elevated the matter before the COA Commission Proper.
But in their ruling, COA chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan and Commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon dismissed PEZA’s motion for reconsideration for being devoid of merit.
They upheld the stand of the CGS Cluster Director on the compulsory nature of presidential and DBM approval before any extra benefit can be granted.
“PEZA is duty-bound to observe guidelines and policies as may be issued by the President. The power of the (PEZA) board to fix the compensation of the employees is not absolute,” COA said. - Rappler.com
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