The Commission on Audit (COA) wanted the officials of the Philippine Normal University (PNU) in Agusan del Sur province to return the P2.95 million bonus given as this was not part of the dole-outs supposedly given to teachers.
The Commission en banc sustained the notice of disallowance slapped against the teachers’ state university because the professional economic assistance (PEA) given to employees and officials were out of bounds from what the law allows.
In 2006 and 2007, the PNU Agusan campus granted each of its official and employee PEA worth P20,000 to P25,000 depending on their tenure in office.
A total of P1.31 million was given in 2006 while P1.64 million in 2007.
The grant of bonus was considered in line with the power of the board of regents to give bonuses as part of “other programs/projects” as stipulated in the Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, university officials raised.
However, state auditors questioned the PEA and issued an audit observation momerandum, saying that this violated the Government Auditing Code, the 2005 General Appropriations Act and the Salary Standardization Law.
Dr. Lucila Henderson, executive director of PNU-Agusan campus, elevated the case to the COA regional director, but the audit memorandum was sustained as well for being an ultra vires (beyond the powers) act of the board of regents.
At the en banc, Henderson said that, among others, the purpose of the grant was “to uplift professional growth and development among the university staff and to keep them abreast of the rapid influx of new discoveries.”
Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan and Commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon thumbed down the petition.
The en banc said that a close reading of the Higher Education Modernization Act would readily show that income may be disbursed only “for instruction, research, extension or other programs/projects” of the university.
Citing Supreme Court rulings on statutory construction, they said that “other programs/projects” is restricted to resemble any or either of “instruction, research or extension.”
“PEA is a form of financial assistance given to faculty members and administrative employees while ‘instruction, research or extension’ pertains to an undertaking or a project,” the ruling read.
“Hence, the contention that PEA is within the purview of the [Higher Education Modernization Act] is misplaced,” the top auditors ruled.
They added that had COA not seen the grant of PEA, “the practice would have continued every year,” which was already a violation of the Salary Standardization Law.
COA found the petition of the PNU “unimpressed with merit” and sustained the notices of disallowance against them, which ordered to return the P2.95 million dole-outs. JOHN CONSTANTINE G. CORDON