State auditors directed the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to collect from airline companies administrative fines totaling P249.95 million.
In its 2015 audit report on the bureau, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that “the government was deprived of income from administrative fines” that remained uncollected as of last year.
The auditors attributed this to the bureau’s “failure to strictly enforce the sanctions prescribed in Section 44(d) of the Philippine Immigration Law of 1940 for non-payment of administrative fines, properly address/resolve the questions raised by its clientele on the legality of the increase in fees from P500 to P50,000; and strengthen its internal control in the collection of receivables.”
The immigration law authorizes the bureau to collect administrative fines from or impose such on airline and shipping companies for bringing to the Philippines passengers who are supposedly not properly documented.
“Analysis showed that uncollected receivables from administrative fines had tremendously accumulated. Records disclosed that as of December 31, 2015, uncollected receivables from airlines amounted to P249,950,000,” the auditors said.
Based on the 2015 audit report, the total receivables for administrative fines was P251 million while the actual collections during the year was only P1.05 million.
“The Cash Section had previously issued demand letters to the concerned airlines companies pertaining to uncollected receivables from 2001 to 2012 while the Accounting Section sent billing statements for Order of Exclusions received from CY [Calendar Year] 2013-2014 but the receivables remain uncollected,” the auditors said.
“Apparently, the said provisions [of the immigration law]were not strictly enforced considering that collections are very minimal and receivables outstanding since 2001 remained uncollected. Likewise, scrutiny of the Guaranty Deposit account did not show security payment from any airline to cover the fine as required in the above mentioned provision of Section 44(d),” they added.
Section 44(d) of the Philippine Immigration Law provides, among others, that fines shall be deposited in the Philippine Treasury.
It also states that no vessel shall be granted clearance pending the determination of the question of liability to the payment of such fine or while the fine remains unpaid, except if it deposits security with the BI to cover the fine.
COA said that on January 14, 2016, it received a copy of the letter dated November 16, 2015 from the Office of the Solicitor General relative to the bureau’s request for assistance in the collection of unpaid administrative fines for airline companies.
The letter stated that notices were sent to most of the airlines for the payment of the administrative fines from 2001 to 2015 and requested records and documentation of the audit conducted by the BI regarding the unpaid fines, according to the audit report.
Further, the auditors found that “there are weaknesses in the Bureau’s system of collection that resulted in the accumulation of uncollected administrative fines.”
They said that there were no existing policies or guidelines on billing, recording and collection of receivables as well as no designated central unit or section responsible for receiving the Order of Exclusions (OE).
“There are instances that airport personnel submits to the Accounting Section only an advance copy of the OE which has not been signed by the Commissioner whether a fine should be imposed or not. Without the signed OE, the legality of the imposed fine cannot be ascertained and its recording as receivable is without legal basis,” the auditors said.
In addition, they said that there was non-monitoring of uncollected receivables and no policy on penalty for late payment of fines.
In order to reduce uncollected receivables and to generate income for the government, they recommended the bureau to direct the concerned office to strictly enforce the provisions of Section 44(d) of the Philippine Immigration Law.
The BI was also told to direct the concerned office to “assert the legality and validity of the amount of administrative fees and demand immediate collection from airline companies” and “expedite the formulation and implementation of policies defining the responsibility of each Section/Division to ensure effective billing, recording, collection and monitoring of accounts receivable, including the imposition of penalties and surcharges on uncollected accounts.”
COA further recommended the designation of a central unit/section at the Commissioner’s Office responsible for the receiving and validating of the OEs.
“The Chief Accountant committed to coordinate with concerned Sections/Divisions to come up with the necessary guidelines to simplify monitoring and recording of administrative fines which will be elevated to the Administrative Fine Committee for approval. The questions raised by the airline companies on the legality of increase in fees were forwarded to the BI Legal Division for guidance. It was also mentioned during the exit conference that the Bureau will make proper representation with the airline companies to demand payment,” the auditors closed. MA. REINA
LEANNE C. TOLENTINO