COA execs won’t take N. Vizcaya ‘aid’

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Officials of the Commission on Audit on Monday said they will refuse the P10,000 cash assistance being offered by the provincial government, which they were supposed to receive as a yearend benefit in 2008.

Julieta Mangulabnan, COA regional cluster director here, said the agency and its personnel are not entitled to receive assistance from the provincial government other than funding for office facilities and equipment as mandated by law.

“We do not know anything about that. We have not been informed that there is such a grant for the COA, but even if there is one, we will not accept it because it is prohibited,” she said. 

The COA cluster director was referring to the P31-million global economic relief assistance (Gera) which was intended by the provincial government as a yearend benefit for its officials and employees, as well as for selected officials of national agencies.

The Gera was given supposedly to help provincial workers cope with the negative effects of the global economic crisis. As such, the said “assistance” would be exempt from the recipients’ taxable income.

The aid was funded through an appropriation ordinance approved by the provincial board, which allotted P30,000 for each of the 680 officials and regular employees, and 252 casuals. Contractual workers will get P10,000 each.

For national agencies, among those slated to receive P10,000 each are judges of the five branches of the Regional Trial Court here and their clerks of court, prosecutors of the Department of Justice, lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office, and chiefs of the National Bureau of Investigation, Register of Deeds, Civil Service Commission and Commission on Audit, and others who may be chosen by Gov. Luisa Cuaresma.

The said national government officials were chosen as part of the supposed “line agencies directly functioning in the delivery of basic services in partnership with the provincial government”, according to the ordinance.

Sources from the different agencies said the beneficiary-officials have already received their grant after signing an “agreement of undertaking” wherein they pledged to return the amount should the expenditure be found to be irregular.

Mangulabnan, however, expressed doubt over the legality of the grant to the COA.

“What the law provides is that management (government agency concerned) shall provide assistance to the COA in the form of office facilities and equipment, but not for personnel benefit,” she said, citing Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

Section 20 of PD 1445 states that the audited agency shall provide COA with “a suitable and sufficient office space together with supplies, equipment, furniture, and other necessary operating expenses for its proper maintenance, including expenses for travel and transportation”.

If local governments intend to provide benefits to COA employees, they should first remit the fund to the COA central office, which, in turn, shall distribute said grants to its workers in the field offices, Mangulabnan said in an interview.

Sought for comment, acting governor Edgardo Balgos, a senior member of the provincial board, welcomed the COA official’s position. 

“That is also good because probably they just want to maintain their independence as the primary auditing agency. 

He said the board included COA among the beneficiaries because this has been the practice in the previous years, although in a number of instances, COA officials returned the amount, Balgos said.#


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