COA: Dureza, Ramon Jimenez, other execs owe millions in illegal allowances
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Audit (COA) has affirmed its notices of disallowance against separate disbursements made by Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and former tourism chief Ramon Jimenez, compelling them to return millions in illegal allowances that their offices received.
Dureza and Jimenez filed their own petitions for review but the COA junked both. These were detailed in separate decisions dated December 27, 2016, but only released to media this week.
In Dureza's case, an audit of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) showed that under his chairmanship from 2001 to 2004, the council illegally released P456,000 as staple food assistance and P540,000 as amelioration allowance to officials and employees.
According to the COA, the allowances were not authorized by the Office of the President or the Department of Budget and Management.
The COA, however, made an exemption, saying only MEDCo officials are liable because rank-and-file employees were unaware of restrictions and therefore accepted their share in good faith.
“Petitioners Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, MEDCo chairperson, and assistant secretary Eufemia O. Calderon, MEDCo vice-chairperson, as approving officers; and Corazon T. Ginete, director for Administration and Finance, and Perla R. Pandan, administrative officer, as certifying officers as to the necessity and legality of the expenditures, are solidarily liable to refund the disallowed amounts,” the COA said when it junked Dureza's petition.
In a text message to Rappler, Dureza said he already returned to COA his share of the allowance. He said he only sought reconsideration for the benefit of the employees.
"I take full responsibility if the individual employees do not comply to return. Bottomline, I will voluntarily return the amounts using my personal funds if necessary," Dureza said.
The Department of Tourism (DOT), for its part, paid P1.23 million worth of fuel differentials to officials and employees from 2009 to 2012.
COA said that under the General Appropriations Act, transporation allowance shall not be paid to officials who are assigned service vehicles.
COA added that former tourism chief Ramon Jimenez filed his petition after the allowable period for appeal, hence the disallowance is final and executory.
“Even granting that this Commission may set aside technicalities, the petitioner still failed to adduce new and material evidence that would warrant the reversal or modification of the decision,” COA's decision said.
Jimenez explained to Rappler that the fuel differentials were released before his term, but it was during his time in office that the DOT filed a petition for review.
Jimenez was appointed tourism secretary in 2011.
"The fuel differentials were before my tenure. Only the reply from the Secretary's office was issued through me. I suppose the current Secretary has option to ask for Motion for Reconsideration," Jimenez told Rappler.
Rappler was still seeking comment from current Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo as of posting time. – Lian Buan/Rappler.com