Officials of the Caramoran municipal government have agreed to implement the Commission on Audit’s recommendation that personnel refund a P15,000 calamity assistance granted to them in December 2020 that was later found to be illegal.
In its 2020 Annual Audit Report on the transactions of the local government, the COA found that on Dec. 1, 2020, the Sangguniang Bayan passed Appropriation Ordinance No. 11, authorizing Supplemental Budget No. 6 that appropriated the amount of P1.28 million as Cash Relief Assistance to LGU personnel.
The ordinance, which granted P15,000 each as assistance to LGU officials and employees who were affected by typhoon Ulysses, was subsequently approved by Mayor Glenda Aguilar on the same day.
The windfall was released to the personnel on Dec. 21, 2020, with the total disbursement amounting to P1.26 million.
“The disbursement, however, shall not pass in audit and would be disallowed because of (a) serious flaw,” the auditors stated.
It pointed out that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, in its Feb. 1, 2021 session, declared Supplemental Budget No. 6, covered by the appropriation ordinance, as “inoperative” in its entirety for having no legal basis.
According to a municipal official, the LGU has already directed its personnel to refund the benefit but not all have completely repaid the amount.
The government watchdogs also flagged the LGU’s implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) Emergency Subsidy Program for extending cash assistance to families with ineligible members.
Verification of the ESP Master List and job order payrolls, including an inquiry from the LGU’s Human Resource Office, disclosed that the municipal government gave the cash assistance of P30,000 to families whose members are either barangay officials or job order employees.
It cited several JO employees who had reported for work almost daily in April 2020 to assist in the COVID-19 response and received wages for their services, with the others also getting hazard pay.
The MSWD Officer told the audit team that he was not aware that families whose members were JO employees or elected officials were able to receive the subsidy.
He justified the release of the cash to JO workers, claiming that they are qualified as they were authorized to report for work in skeleton workforce scheme.
“The SAP-ESP aims to provide financial assistance to families with low or no income at all due to the COVID 19 pandemic,” the COA stressed. “Hence, payment of SAP to ineligible JO employees and barangay officials defeated the purpose of the ESP, depriving other qualified families that were most in need of financial aid.”
The report also bared that 12 members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) received twice the amount of emergency subsidy.
Manual cross-matching of the 4Ps beneficiary database against the ESP Master List and payroll showed that the 12 4Ps members were granted additional cash subsidy totaling P60,000.
“(T)he spouse registered in the 4Ps database as head of the family would waive his/her position in favor of her partner for the ESP,” the COA noted, adding that the omission of middle names or erroneous spelling of characters caused the non-detection of the 4Ps beneficiaries.
In reply, the OIC-MSWD officer informed that the DSWD provided the master list only after the ESP payout and was not used during the beneficiary validation process.
“Weakness in internal controls, delay in transmission of vital references, lack of cooperation from the barangay and human error had contributed to the aforecited infractions…,” the COA report stressed.
It further said that barangay officials gave Social Amelioration Card (SAC) forms to unqualified families while some heads of the family intentionally lied in executing their SACs.
In one instance, one family executed two separate SAC forms with the same family members in two different barangays and was able to collect twice the subsidy. The beneficiary refunded the amount of P5,000 and his signature was erased from the payroll, the report disclosed.
In another, separated spouses claimed subsidies, although the wife had custody of the children and thus was the one entitled to the assistance.
A separate investigation conducted by the MSWDO showed that five household beneficiaries were confirmed to have claimed both the SAP-ESP and 4Ps benefits.
The auditors also discovered the disbursements from the SAP fund were without complete documentation, as the concerned LGU departments were not able to submit all photocopies of the SAC forms, and less than half of the photocopies of ID cards with specimen signature, and photos of the beneficiaries during the actual receipt.
The other significant negative findings of the 2020 audit included the following: P1.63 million in purchases done through Shopping instead of Small Value Procurement and unliquidated cash advances of P413,289 granted to officials and employees.