COA bares P13.1M illegal Iloilo Capitol hazard pay; overpayment to hospital

By Florence F. Hibionada
Philippine News Service (PNS)

ILOILO, PHILIPPINES – Some 160 public health workers of the Iloilo Provincial Government (IPG) have been ordered to refund Capitol funds amounting to over P13.1 million. Same full refund order for eleven Chiefs of Hospitals for overpayment of claims, total worth is P714,511.95.

All recipients of “Hazard Pay/Hazard Allowance,” the Commission On Audit (COA) ruled that the 160 workers’ inclusion in the list was contrary to law. The reason? All were ‘just’ detailed at the Capitol Building, seat of the IPG thus not within the purview of a “hazardous” environment.

The hospital chiefs for their part were paid at least double than the allowable rate that they should have been paid.

To note, Governor Arthur Defensor allowed the grant of “Hazard Pay/Hazard Allowance” for Capitol’s health workers pursuant to the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers. Period covered was from January to December of 2010 and January to September of 2011.

State Auditors though uncovered violations committed particularly on the restrictions and provisions. Focus of the check was to ascertain who should have been eligible for the pay and how much in benefits to give.

Section 7.1.1 of the Magna Carta’s Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations states that all public health workers are eligible “when the nature of their work exposes them to high risk/low risk hazards for at least 50% of their working hours as determined and approved by the Secretary of Health.

Further still is Section 21 that enumerated the requirements for compensation of public health workers “in hospitals, sanitaria, rural health units, main health centers, health infirmaries, barangay health stations, clinics and other health-related establishments located in difficult areas, strife-torn or embattled areas, distressed or isolated stations, prisons (sic) camps, mental hospitals, radiation-exposed clinics, laboratories or disease-infested areas…” among others.

“We have audited the payment of aforesaid benefits…….Based on the above cited provisions of RA 7305 and its Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations, this Office believes that the personnel assigned at the Provincial Health Office (PHO), Hospital Operations Management Services (HOMS) and the Provincial Veterinary office stationed at the Iloilo Provincial Building are not qualified to receive hazard pay/hazard allowance for reasons that they do not fall within any of the above-mentioned employees qualified to be compensated with hazard pay/hazard allowances,” the COA in its report said.

The PHO and the HOMS are both located at the second floor of the Capitol building while the Provincial Veterinarian Office is at the fifth floor.

“Further review f the documents attached to the payroll for payment of hazard pay/hazard allowance reveals that there was no showing of certification from the Head of the Administration/Human Resource Management Office attesting that the nature of work of said employees given such benefits were exposed to high/low risk hazards for at least 50% of their man-hours,” the COA continued. “Although their work are health-related but they do not stay in a contaminated, strife-torn or isolated areas and the risks brought about by their environment to their health are not so grave enough to warrant their entitlement to such benefit..”

To back up its position, COA cited an August 2004 Supreme Court ruling similar to IPG’s case.

As such, Notice of Disallowances (NDs) were issued by the Commission ordering full refund of the money received by all 160 Capitol workers.

Philippine News Service (PNS) obtained the report and the list which included key Capitol officials headed by Provincial Health Officer II Patricia Grace Trabado and Provincial Veterinarian Dr. Silvino Teodosio Jr. The list also named Capitol’s Statistician, nurses, administrative aides, dentists and dental aides as among the disqualified recipients.

At least 10 Capitol payrolls were scrutinized by Senior State Auditors. Cumulative hazard pays of over P100,000 were then granted to senior Capitol health workers while it was in the P10,000 range for lower-ranked employees.

The Provincial Government managed to reply to COA yet one that “have not properly justified the entitlement of said allowances to public health workers stationed in the Provincial Health Office, and HOMS of the Provincial Capitol..”

Dr. Teodosio in behalf of his office argued for their entitlement citing the position of then Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez that government veterinarians are public health workers. Yet COA stood pat on its position saying yes, you are public health workers, but no, not qualified for benefits as per eligibility requirements.

Similar argument when it stressed that “although Local Chief Executives were authorized to pay the Hazard Pay/Hazard Allowance of all Public Health Workers…payment of said allowance should be in accordance with rules and regulations.”

Meantime, another round of order for refund on eleven chiefs of hospitals of the IPG.

Still on the matter of “hazard pay” benefits, COA in further scrutiny discovered overpayments made though at no fault of the recipient hospital chiefs.

Turned out that the Capitol adopted the wrong rate of payment in its computation thus resulting to “overpayment of claims amounting to P741,511.95.” All with Salary Grade 24, the hospital chiefs were similarly paid P59,877.00 each for 2010 hazard pay benefits. COA as per rightful computation ruled though that each should have been granted benefits ranging from P18,800 minimun and P20,709.60 maximum.

In January to September 2011 benefits, the hospital chiefs were similarly paid PP34,928.25 each when the rightful computation was only P13,115.55 or P14,184.10 only.

COA in its corresponding action for the Defensor Administration was clear, “cause the refund by concerned Chiefs of Hospital of the Province of Iloilo the total amount of P741,511.95 representing overpayment of claims for Hazard Pay.”

The questioned P13.1 Million hazard pay and overpayment to the hospital chiefs topped the latest COA findings as per annual audit made on last year’s operation of the Defensor Administration.