COA orders Iloilo officials, workers to return P46-M bonus
The Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered dismissed Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas and other officials to return P46.42 million in bonuses taken from unspent calamity funds and a budget surplus in 2009.
In a decision dated last Dec. 13 but released only recently, the COA denied Mabilog’s appeal of the notice of disallowance issued in 2010 on the performance enhancement incentive (PEI) of P30,000 granted to each employee when Treñas was mayor.
The city employees, who received the bonuses, were also covered by the COA order because the ordinances that the city council passed in December 2009 were legally infirm.
The COA said ordinary workers could not be held in good faith because they signed waivers in their payroll stating: “We further certify to refund the said amount in case of issuance of notice of disallowance by the Commission on Audit from our terminal pay or any money claim.”
Besides Treñas and then Vice Mayor Mabilog, others ordered to return their bonuses were former Councilor and now Mayor Jose Espinosa III, Councilors Eduardo Peñaredondo, Ely Estante Jr., Jeffrey Ganzon and Armand Parcon, and former Councilors Lyndon Acop, Eldrid Antiquera, Julienne Baronda, John Melchor Mabilog, Ma. Irene Ong, Antonio Pesiña Jr., Erwin Plagata, Nielex Tupas and Perla Zulueta.
The councilors passed two ordinances in December 2009, which realigned to the PEI P31.43 million in calamity funds that reverted to unappropriated surplus and a portion of the P31.03 million in savings from the personnel services component of the budget to augment the calamity funds.
Also held liable were former city administrator Melchor Tan, city treasurer Katherine Tingson, assistant treasurer Mary Joan Montaño, accountant Michelle Lopez, budget officer Ninda Atinado, assistant budget officer Joy Ann Toledo and budget officer Dionisia Gargalicana.
The COA affirmed the regional audit office’s June 29, 2015, decision that upheld the Aug. 12, 2010, notice of disallowance on the PEI issued by the auditors.
The decision said the use of the unspent calamity funds for the PEI was contrary to the implementing rules and regulations of the Local Government Code (LGC), which provided for the reversion of the fund to unappropriated surplus to be reappropriated in the next year.
The personnel services (PS) savings used for the PEI also put the city above the 45-percent limit on the use of the annual or supplemental budget for city workers’ salaries and allowances under Section 325(a) of the LGC.
The city government had only P3.23 million available at the time to remain compliant with the 45-percent threshold, according to auditors.
The COA said Mabilog did not provide proof to back up his claim questioning the computation of the allowable PS savings for supposedly including the PS expenditures of the public market and slaughterhouse.
Mabilog claimed the market and the slaughterhouse were economic enterprises and therefore not included in the computation of the PS threshold for cities under the LGC.
But the COA said the market and the slaughterhouse were not really included in the computation made by state auditor Johnna Salugta.
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