COA nudges Davao City over questionable workers

MANILA, Philippines – Three years after more than 11,000 questionable workers of the Davao City government were flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA), state auditors again nudged the local government to comply with its long-standing recommendations.

In the 2017 audit report of Davao City recently released by COA, state auditors said the local government has only "partially implemented" the 2014 recommendation to strengthen internal controls when hiring contractual workers.

"A hiring plan was created, but application does not cover all personnel," COA said in the Status of Implementation of Prior Years' Audit Recommendations part of the 2017 report.

Questionable workers

It started in 2012 when COA questioned the P677 million paid by Davao City to job order workers and other contractual workers "without requiring submission of accomplishment reports."

In 2014, auditors again flagged Davao City for "failing to establish the propriety and regularity of expenditures for the salaries and other remunerations paid to" contractual workers that year, amounting to P707.7 million.

In the 2014 audit report, there were 11,246 workers hired under contracts of service and job orders. They were spread across city offices and other units like drainage maintenance, traffic management, human resources, and the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

But COA said "specific functions and duties expected of them are not indicated in the contracts of service."

Their daily time records were also flagged because there were no attendance logbooks "or any form of document that would indicate whenever they are on field work."

COA also observed that some workers were placed under barangay chairpersons who signed their daily time records. This condition, COA said, may lead auditors to think that the records were being manipulated and "thus, regularity and validity of the related expenditures could not be ascertained."

Because 11,246 is a big number, COA said it is important to "evaluate the necessity of hiring them vis-à-vis hiring policies."

"Further, it was learned that there are employees under contracts / job orders who have been working with the City of Davao for more than 10 years," state auditors said.

COA recommended in 2014 that the city government formulate a hiring plan, which 3 years later, in 2017, it has not fully complied with.

'General services'

Audit reports from 2014 to 2017 show that workers under "general services" continue to make up the biggest chunk of the salaries paid to contracted services. In 2017, it was at P938.7 million.

In 2014, COA already flagged that the salaries of these workers were charged to the general services fund of the city government.

The COA said then that "general services" refer to carpentry, plumbing, electrical and other services. "Hence, job orders rendering office works, hospital works, engineering works, and administrative works cannot be categorized as general services," it said.

It's unclear if over the years, the same workers flagged in 2014 were still the same workers under general services from 2015 to 2017, but the salaries paid to them continued to grow.

In 2015, it grew to P755.4 million; in 2016, it was at P803.7 million; and in 2017, it was at P938.7 million.

Out of the P1.1 billion that Davao City paid to contracted services in 2017, it paid P938.7 million to "other general services" or 80.6% of the total amount. The big chunk is similar in 2016, when 78% of the P1.02 billion paid to contracted services were for general services, or P803.7 million.

GENERAL SERVICES. In 2017, workers under general services were paid by Davao City 80.6% of the total salaries it paid to all contracted services. Screenshot from the 2017 audit report of Davao City

GENERAL SERVICES. In 2017, workers under general services were paid by Davao City 80.6% of the total salaries it paid to all contracted services.

Screenshot from the 2017 audit report of Davao City

President Rodrigo Duterte was mayor of Davao City from 2014 to 2015, and was replaced in 2016 by daughter Sara Duterte Carpio, who serves to this day.

The 2014 audit report was used by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in the plunder complaint he filed against the President in 2016. Trillanes claimed that the workers' salaries contributed to the alleged P2.4 billion worth of undisclosed deposits to the President's bank accounts.

Back then, the Duterte camp said the City Government Seal of Good Governance awarded to Davao City in 2015 by then Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was "a positive affirmation compared with trumped-up charges."

The complaint merited an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman, but it was terminated late in 2017. The Ombudsman said it was because the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) did not cooperate.  –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.