MANILA, Philippines– The Commission on Audit (COA) denied the petition of state pensioner Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to review auditors’ decision which blocked consultancy contracts worth P2.1 million made in 2014.
GSIS hired Conrado Vasquez Jr. and Josefina Salonga, retired justices of the Court of Appeals, as “highly technical and confidential consultants.” They were compensated P600,000 and P475,000, respectively.
Lawyers Elmer Lopez and Waldo Flores were also tapped as consultants and were paid P600,000 and P450,000, respectively.
Then-GSIS president and general manager Robert Vergara issued the notice of award of contracts.
State auditors, however, issued a notice of disallowance in September 2015, noting that GSIS failed to secure the written conformity of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the concurrence of COA.
Vergara, GSIS board of trustees chairman Daniel Lacson Jr., members Romeo Alip and Geraldine Marie Berberabe-Martinez, and officers Dickson Berberabe, Elmer Lagasca, and Josefina Maitim, were held liable by COA.
GSIS claimed that the confidential consultants were not required to secure the approval of OGCC and COA.
COA disagreed, noting that the GSIS charter specified that the OGCC was the legal adviser and consultant of the pension fund.
“[T]he prohibition is based on public policy – the need of the government to curtail unnecessary public expenditures,” COA stressed.
However, COA’s new decision now excluded the consultants from liabilities.
COA added that the consultants rendered services to GSIS in good faith. The refund of the payments is the responsibility of GSIS officials liable under the notice of disallowance. – Rappler.com