COA: Over P400-M cash bonus for sugar farmers unremitted, undistributed
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has bared that P412, 838,799.55-worth of cash bonuses remained unremitted and undistributed to sugar farmers as of 2018, partly due to the Department of Labor and Employment’s (Dole) lack of public announcements on the benefits.
In its annual report, the audit agency said the undistributed share of Cash Bonus Fund (CBF) for sugar farmers from 1991 to 2018 ballooned to P528,082,529.89. Of the total fund, P313,498,886.14 was already forfeited and accrued to the Socio-Economic Project Fund.
“Examination of the fragmented records available showed that instead of remitting the undistributed amount of P528,082,529.89, only P115,243,730.34 was remitted to the ROs [regional offices] from crop years 1991 to 2018, thus a total of P412,838,799.55 was not remitted by the millers/planters, contrary to the regulation,” COA said.
Under Republic Act No. 6982 or the Sugar Amelioration Act of 1999, a lien on sugar produce is being imposed on sugar planters and millers. Eighty percent of the lien should be collected by the sugar mills and released to planters associations or directly to unaffiliated planters, for distribution to their respective workers. The other 20 percent, meanwhile, is collected by the sugar mills, to be remitted to the Dole for other programs for sugar workers.
The law also requires the Secretary of Dole to make public announcements about the benefits in local radio stations at least three publications in local newspapers and posting in public areas where the concerned beneficiaries reside.
“(T)here was lack of public announcements made by the DOLE Secretary on the availability of cash bonus and other benefits due the sugar workers (SWs), thus the accumulation of undistributed fund and unavailed benefits,” COA said.
State auditors also doubted the validity of distribution of some P431,285,154.70 in 2018 due to insufficient documents and accounting reports.
COA then suggested that the Dole chief, through ROs, strictly demand from the millers or planters remittance of the undistributed CBF, and initiate legal actions against those who intentionally violate the law.
Dole said the ROs concerned are doing their duty with regard to the publication of unclaimed or undistributed CBF, according to COA. The Labor agency also said it continues to monitor and demand remittance of the fund. COA said Dole would also study the possibility of filing charges against erring millers or planters. /jpv
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