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More casuals than regulars in BFAR, says COA

MANILA, Philippines — Casuals outnumber regular employees, three to one, at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Commission on Audit (COA) has found.

In its annual audit report, the COA said there were 5,236 casuals in the BFAR’s central office and its 15 regional offices, as well as in the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute. In contrast, the agency has 1,697 regular plantilla positions.

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Also called contract of service (COS) employees, or job order individuals, the casuals either perform the regular functions of permanent employees or do not work within a specific period, according to the COA.

For instance, 51 casual employees have been found to be working in the BFAR for more than 10 years, according to the report. This violates a 2017 joint circular of the Civil Service Commission, Department of Budget and Management, and the COA.

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“Hiring under contract of service shall be limited to consultants, learning service providers, or other technical experts to undertake special projects or jobs within a specific period,” the COA said, citing the circular.

It noted that casuals could be hired “if the project or job is not part of the regular functions of the agency, or the expertise is not available in the agency, or it is impractical or more expensive for the government agency to directly undertake the service provided by the individual or institutional contractor.”

The circular said that casuals “should not, in any case, be made to perform functions which are part of the job description of the agency’s existing regular employees.”

The COA said the BFAR violated all three provisions.

At the head office, work assignments of the contractuals are part of the regular functions of the agency.

Unfilled positions

While there were 1,120 contractual employees at the central office, 113 plantilla positions had been unfilled as of October 2018, the state audit body said.

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“The bureau should have filled up first before it resorted to hiring COS individuals. The nonfilling-up of the vacant positions contributed to the high number of COS individuals hired by the bureau,” the COA said.

Some COS employees have been found to perform administrative, clerical and technical functions in support of the day-to-day operations of the agency, contrary to what the circular allows them to do.

In particular, the COA found that in the Western Visayas regional office, COS employees hired as quarantine personnel were made to collect fees in different ports in the region, which is outside their scope of work.

Sports officers

In the audit report, the COA noted the hiring of six “sports development officers.”

It said it could not determine the necessity of their hiring, since their responsibilities “cannot be seen in the mandate of the bureau.”

At the Region 10 office, the COA found that the BFAR had contracted the services of a private lawyer, who was paid P629,437.01 “without acquiescence from the Office of the Solicitor General and the Commission on Audit.”

This violates the COA rule that a prior written authority and acquiescence of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and COA are required before hiring private lawyers and law firms.

In its recommendations, the audit body told the BFAR to “observe the limitations on the hiring of COS individuals,” and to fast-track the hiring of existing qualified COS workers to fill vacant plantilla positions.

The agency was also told to evaluate the necessity of hiring sports development officers since their functions did not contribute to BFAR programs, activities and projects.

The Western Visayas office was also ordered to stop assigning collection functions to casual workers, while the Northern Mindanao office was told to get the written authority of the OSG and the COA before hiring private lawyers.

The BFAR has agreed to comply with all the recommendations.

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TAGS: BFAR, casual employees, COA, regualr employee
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