• Former-Tesda chiefs ordered to return excess allowances

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the director-generals of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to refund the excess or unauthorized extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses (EME) which they received.

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    Voting 14-1, the SC en banc affirmed the Commission on Audit (COA) decision dated November 15, 2012 with modification and held: “Only the director-generals of the [Tesda] who approved the excess or unauthorized [EME are ordered to refund the same].”

    The COA’s Tesda audit team leader discovered that from 2004 to 2007, covering the terms of former Tesda directors-general, Alcestis Guiang and Augusto Syjuco Jr., the agency paid EMEs twice each year to its officials from two sources: (1) the General Fund for locally-funded projects, and (2) the Technical Education and Skills Development Project (TESDP) Fund for foreign-assisted projects.

    The payment of EME was authorized under the General Provisions of the General Appropriation Acts of 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 (2004-2007 GAAs), subject to certain conditions.

    On May 15, 2008, the audit team issued a notice of disallowance covering the payment of EME amounting to P5,498,706.60 for being in excess of the amount allowed in the 2004-2007 GAAs.

    Syjuco then filed an appeal memorandum but the COA Cluster Director denied it.

    Tesda, through Syjuco, subsequently filed a petition for review before the COA.

    The petition, however, was denied and, instead, the commission adopted the findings of both the Tesda audit team and the COA Cluster Director, prompting the agency to elevate the case to the high court.

    In its petition, Tesda claimed that the COA gravely erred in disallowing the payments made by TESDA to its officials of their EME from both the General Fund and TESDP Fund.

    The agency also assailed the COA’s resolution which held the officers of Tesda individually liable for the total disallowance in the amount of P5,498,706.60 even if they may be rightfully considered as de facto officers in good faith who are entitled to EME for actual services rendered.

    In the ruling, the high tribunal held: “ Tesda failed to point out the law specifically authorizing it to grant additional reimbursement for EME from the TESDP Fund, contrary to the explicit requirement in the Constitution and the law.”

    “There is nothing in the 2004-2007 GAAs which allows Tesda to grant its officials another set of EME from another source of fund like the TESDP Fund,” the court ruling, penned by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, pointed out.

    The tribunal held that “the 2005 GAA provided for a ceiling on EME that Tesda still had to comply despite the grant of EME in the 2005 GAA for foreign-assisted projects.”

    Applying by analogy the Braquera, Casal and Velasco rulings, as well as Sec. 16 o the 2009 Rules and Regulations on Settlement of Accounts, the high court held that “the approving officers of Tesda [Director-Generals] are liable for the excess EME received by them.”

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