A MONTH to go before the Yuletide, the Commission on Audit (COA) has seemingly sent a warning to government officials when it ordered a government-controlled company to almost P3 million of Christmas bonuses.
In the decision of the COA en banc, the top three auditors denied with finality the petition of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority Management Holdings Inc. (BMHI) over the issuance of P2.91-million bonus.
Chairperson Grace Tan and Commissioner Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon resolved that yearend bonanza given were illegally disbursed and should be returned.
The case recalled the distribution of BMHI and its parent company, the Bases COnversion (BCDA), in 2003 of Christmas gift checks worth P35,000 to its employees despite the Budget department only approving P10,000 for the bonuses.
In a series of review, the audit team from COA flagged the gift checks as excessive and ruled that a total of P2.15 million must be disallowed.
The Commission also issued in a supplemental notice of disallowance that ruled that a P754,000, which not included in the first notice must be returned, raising the illegally disbursed bonus to P2.91 million.
The BMHI said on appeal that the distribution is not illegal per se and that it only needed an authority from BCDA.
BMHI officials added that a mother company can actually extend benefits to its subsidiary.
Even then, the board of directors of BMHI raised a 2008 resolution that allowed the grant of the Christmas gift checks, which, BMHI said, “cured” the defect of the disallowed benefit.
However, the top auditors junked this claim.
“The authority of BCDA over its subsidiaries is merely supervisory and does not encompass policy . . . Hence, BCDA can only perform oversight functions,” COA clarified.
It said that the resolution of BCDA that granted extension of benefits to BMHI “had no legal basis” as it was done beyond the powers of the parent company.
COA also ruled that the 2008 resolution of BMHI for the issuance of gift checks was never authenticated or certified from the corporate secretary.
“Hence, the allegation remains to be a pure self-serving statement and possesses no probative value,” the decision read, adding that should there be a resolution, “the same will not validate the irregular disbursement.”
BMHI had no authority to disburse cash which its parent company has no authority to do in the first place, the decision stressed.
“The gift checks granted to BMHI employees were not justified. Consequently, the same should be refunded for being an irregular disbursement of public funds,” it added.
COA ordered the BMHI to return the P2.91 million yearend bonus and ruled that its board of directors should be “jointly and solidarily [be]liable for the amount disallowed.” JOHN CONSTANTINE G. CORDON