COA orders Rama to justify why he used SEF to fund teachers’ bonuses
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama fulfilled his promise to double the cash incentives for public school teachers assigned in the city.
In fact, City Hall worked overtime on the last working day of the year on Dec. 28, 2012 to distribute the P10,000 bonus.
Now, the Commission on Audit has tasked Mayor Rama to explain why he should not be held liable for the “illegal” use of P56.3 million from the city’s Special Education Funds (SEF) especially on the release of performance incentives to public school teachers last December 28.
The Commission on Audit (COA) has likewise asked Local School Board (LSB) to submit documents that will justify the SEF charges.
“Officials who authorized these transactions (should) be made to explain and justify the disbursements. In the event that no satisfactory explanation can be given, hold these officials personally liable for these illegal disbursements,” said an audit observation memorandum by Eva Cabrera, state auditor IV.
But Councilor Joey Daluz III, head of the LSB finds the COA memorandum may not yet be necessary.
They could have made a simple request to be furnish the necessary documents from the mayor’s office or the LSB before issuing the memorandum.
“COA should be congratulated for the quick report. This is the first in Cebu City (that an audit observation memorandum was issued in such a short time),” said Daluz, head of the LSB.
He added the issuance of the audit observation memorandum was a clear display of the agency’s bias against the Rama administration.
“Klaro kaayo nga lutong macao na. Nangayo usa unta sila sa papers. They could have asked us for clarification,” he told Cebu Daily News.
(There is clear prejudice. They could have asked us the papers.)
Mayor Rama for his part said that he is yet to read a copy of the audit observation memorandum but he was prepared to address concerns mentioned in the said memorandum.
“We will have to go through the usual procedure,” Rama said.
Cabrera’s audit memorandum said that the P56.3 million charges to the SEF do not qualify under section 272 of the Local Government Code (LGC) which provides that the SEF should only be utilized for the “operation and maintenance of public schools; construction and repair of school buildings, facilities an equipment; educational research; purchase of books and periodicals; and sports development as determined and approved by the local school board.”
The biggest item in this expenditure is for the payment of Additional Performance Incentives to public school teachers assigned in the city worth P48.2 million.
The cash incentive of public school teachers from the City Hall was increased to P10,000 in 2012, from P5,000 in 2011.
The other items in the expenditure sourced from the SEF were for psychological testing of teachers, food and accommodation for various Department of Education activities, door prizes given out during the Teachers Day Celebration and teachers scholarship tuition fee.
“May we have your comments on the foregoing audit observations immediately from receipt hereof,” said Cabrera’s memorandum.
Daluz said he is yet to discuss the audit observation with Mayor Rama and the LSB members before they could draft their reply to COA.
But he said that this is not a cause for alarm because this was not yet a disallowance of the SEF charges.
“We were just asked to explain if the expenses were legal.”
“They cannot even make their decision (on whether the cash disbursement was legal or not) because they don’t have documents,” Daluz told CDN.
Cabrera’s memorandum dated Jan. 7, 2013 mention their audit of check disbursements made from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 which resulted in the discovery of “deficiencies/errors” in the use of the SEF.
Her two-page audit observation memorandum said that the release of P10,000 as additional performance incentive to national and locally paid teachers and non-teaching personnel of the DepEd amounting to a total of P48 million was already “on top of other legally authorized benefits such as the 13th month pay, cash gift and productivity enhancement incentives.”
“The giving of such incentive may affect other vital projects necessary to carry out the objectives of the Special Education Fund,” it said.
Except for the memorandum which Rama issued authorizing the use of the SEF for teachers incentives, no other document was made available to support the said charge.
Cabrera said that to date her office have not also been furnished with a copy of the School Board resolution which she requested from City Schools Superintendent Rhea Mar Angtud.
While the cash disbursement lacked in documentary support, Cabrera also noted the approval with “objections” which City Treasurer Emma Villarete and City Accountant Diwa Cuevas wrote on the cash disbursement voucher.
She said that even the conduct of the psychological test on teachers was not supported by any order from the DepEd Central Office as admitted by the Schools Division Superintendent.
But, Daluz said that while the use of the SEF for teachers’ incentives was not mentioned as among the expenses authorized by the LGC, it does not necessarily mean that the said cash disbursement was illegal.
“What the law does not prohibit, it allows,” he said.
Also Daluz corrected the audit observation that use of the SEF may affect the implementation of other school board projects.
He said that Mayor Rama and the LSB made sure that they first address the city’s education needs before they authorized the P56.3 million other charges to the SEF.
He said that P130 million was set aside for use in the expansion of public school classes while another P100 million was set aside for the construction of additional classrooms. Sports development activities was also given a P30 million budget.
The appropriation for teachers assistance was charged from the unspent SEF balance of close to P200 million.
Daluz said that to date and after the charges were made, the city’s SEF which is placed under a trust fund still has an unappropriated balance of at least P100 million.
“Asa man ang na-prejudice ana?”
(Where is the interest prejudiced here?)