COA blasts hiring of priests as consultants

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WHY were bishops and priests hired either as consultants or given honoraria at the Bulacan provincial capitol given the separation of the Church and State under the Philippine Constitution?

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The same question troubled the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the province of Bulacan where it was found that members of the Church beefed up the ranks of government workers

“Bishops/priests of different congregations were also hired as consultant or granted monthly honoraria ranging from P9,000 to P22,500,” state auditors noted in their report.

Government accountants said that this move from the provincial capitol was “not in accordance” with the Philippine Charter, which provided for the separation of the Church and the state as “inviolable.”

Although the names of the prelates were withheld, as well as the number allegedly hired and the year of hiring, the Commission nonetheless said that this had defeated the purpose of public treasury.

“Payment for this nature is also contrary to the fundamental principle that local funds and monies shall be spent solely for public purposes,” the report added.

This audit observation is only a part of a bigger red flag from the COA where they found that the total number of employees under the category of casuals, job orders, contractual and consultants “significantly increased.”

According to COA, the hiring reflected a 79-percent increase from 900 in 2009 to 1,608 in 2012, “causing the level of personal services expenditures to leap by 226 percent from P73.79 million to P196.33 million for the same period.”

Audit disclosed that Bulacan has 72 consultants under its service assigned at the governor’s and vice governor’s offices.

“We [Auditors] noted though that these consultants, whose monthly compensation ranged from P10,000 to P35,000, were hired not in accordance with the general principles in the procurement of consulting services,” the audit team reported.

COA added that interviews with these consultants showed that they were hired and appointed based on “trust and confidence.”

Six consultants, whose names are withheld in the report, are either high school graduates or college undergraduates. They rendered consultancy services on office matters, external affairs, infrastructure or special projects operations.

“Given their credentials, we believe they do not possess the educational qualification and work experience required by their work assignments,” the report read.

The Commission reiterated that consultants must be hired on the basis of their “appropriate education, training and relevant experience.”

“Their services may be engaged by any procuring entity for government projects or related activities . . . that would require a level of expertise or attention,” the Commission said.

COA recommended the provincial capitol to assess the necessity of the services of its casual, job order, contractual and consultant employees to avoid unnecessary expenditure of government funds.

They also asked Bulacan officials to evaluate if the responsibilities of the existing consultants duplicate those of the regular and casual employees and to limit the hiring of consultants to urgent and critical work only.

The officials said in a reply that they will limit the hiring of non-organic personnel in 2013 to save funds and implement important programs of the province.

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