FOR the nth time, the Commission on Audit has hit another batch of public officials with its now familiar and frequently issued order to return to the treasury funds that were illegally distributed to them as bonuses, and which the commission has officially disallowed.
The latest group to be slapped with a COA order are Iloilo provincial officials and workers, including dismissed city mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who were given, or gave themselves, P46 million in bonuses that were taken from unspent calamity funds and a budget surplus in 2009.
In a decision issued on December13, the COA denied Mabilog’s appeal of the notice of disallowance issued in 2010 on the performance enhancement incentive (PEI) of P30,000 granted to each employee when Jerry Treñas was mayor.
The city employees, who received the bonuses, were also covered by the COA order because the ordinances that the city council passed in December 2009 were legally infirm.
The COA said ordinary workers could not be in good faith in keeping the money because they signed waivers in their payroll stating: “We further certify to refund the said amount in case of issuance of notice of disallowance by the Commission on Audit from our terminal pay or any money claim.”
Besides Treñas and then Vice Mayor Mabilog, others ordered to return their bonuses were former Councilor and now Mayor Jose Espinosa 3rd, Councilors Eduardo Peñaredondo, Ely Estante Jr., Jeffrey Ganzon and Armand Parcon, and former Councilors Lyndon Acop, Eldrid Antiquera, Julienne Baronda, John Melchor Mabilog, Ma. Irene Ong, Antonio Pesiña Jr., Erwin Plagata, Nielex Tupas and Perla Zulueta.
The councilors passed two ordinances in December 2009, which realigned to the PEI, P31.43 million in calamity funds that reverted to unappropriated surplus and a portion of the P31.03 million in savings from the personnel services component of the budget to augment the calamity funds.
COA affirmed the regional audit office’s decision on June 29, 2015, that upheld the Aug. 12, 2010, notice of disallowance on the PEI issued by the auditors.
The decision said the use of the unspent calamity funds for the PEI was contrary to the implementing rules and regulations of the Local Government Code (LGC), which provided for the reversion of the fund to unappropriated surplus to be re-appropriated in the next year.
The decision is not the first one that the audit commission has issued; and this is not the first instance that it has disallowed the misuse of public funds and ordered responsible officials and employees to return money to the public treasury. These disallowances and orders have been dutifully reported by the media to the public, because the public takes great interest in such decisions.
Now, we want to raise some questions with the Commission on Audit. What happens to these orders to return money? Do the concerned officials ever honor or obey these apparently stern orders? What happens if the concerned officials or employees do not obey? Does the COA take them to court?
We think COA owes it to the nation to regularly report or make a comprehensive report on the effectiveness of its notices of disallowance and orders to return money.
It is consistent with good public service for the audit commission to report on the results of its policy. And it is vital for the public to know.
Citizens are wondering whether there is any chance that the government can recover all the billions misappropriated by the Aquino government under the Disbursement Acceleration program (DAP).