by Allan Yves Briones
The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged P48.56 million in Productivity Based Incentive and Extra Bonuses (PBIEB) granted by the provincial government of Sarangani to its employees last December.
PBIEBs given were reportedly equivalent to two months’ worth of salary, authorized under Special Ordinance No. 2018-9-076.
“Post-audit of the payrolls with reference to aforementioned Ordinance as well as applicable laws, rules and regulations revealed that the grant of PBIEB seemingly lacks legal basis and suffers from irregularities,” the 2018 annual audit report stated.
State auditors found that PBIEBs were granted “as a matter of practice”, as opposed to being authorized by law, contrary to the Supreme Court decision in Baybay Water District vs. COA.
In essence, PBIEB constituted a duplication of already existing benefits and incentives provided by the provincial government to its officials and employees.
Also, cloaked as a Special Ordinance, it allowed Sarangani to avoid review by the Department of Budget and Management which usually embraces appropriation laws under Sections 305(a) and 326 of Republic Act No. 7160.
In addition, state auditors found that PBIEB grants were neither supported by sufficient and relevant documents to establish their validity, nor subjected to withholding taxes in violation of the tax code.
The Provincial Legal Officer, in the report, justified the grant of the PBIEB “as an exercise of its local autonomy.”
However, COA maintains that there was no explanation on the irregularities apparent with the bonuses, and unless “sufficiently justified”, are subject to disallowances in audit.
COA ordered Saragani Governor Steve Solon and the provincial council to prepare a justification on the deficiencies noted, and to stop the grant of bonuses which are “devoid of legal basis.”
In addition, the provincial accountant is tasked with ensuring that disbursements are supported with complete documents.