Chan: Lapu’s release of Covid risk pay backed by DBM orders

·5 min read

THE release of Covid-19 special risk allowances (SRA) to non-health workers in Lapu-Lapu City in 2021 was authorized as it was backed by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) orders, according to Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan.

The mayor was reacting Thursday to a July 9, 2022 SunStar Cebu report on the 2021 audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA), in which state auditors questioned the Lapu-Lapu City Government’s disbursement of millions of pesos in Covid-19 SRA and active hazard duty pay to non-health workers, as well as its disbursement without proof that the personnel had physically reported for work during the period indicated and its failure to indicate some employees’ designations in the payroll.

In a press statement released Thursday, July 14, 2022, Chan also said the news organization should have sought the statement of the city government prior to the publication of the story.

“Nganong gibalita man ni ninyo nga dili man ni insakto? Kung responsible ta nga tigbalita, dapat kuhaan nato og side sa hingtungdan, una mo nipagawas og balita,” he said.

SunStar’s July 9 story carried the side of the Lapu-Lapu City Government as it was included in the COA report. However, the story did not specifically cite the DBM administrative orders (AO) that were the basis for the city government’s reply to COA.

‘Old’ order

Chan noted that the basis for the news report was the previous DBM AO 28 dated April 28, 2020 and did not mention DBM AO 36, which was issued in November of the same year that authorizes the grant of Covid-19 SRA not exceeding P5,000 per month to private and public health workers directly catering to or in contact with Covid-19 patients from September 15 to December 2020.

Chan also pointed out that AO 36 provides that public health workers are either civilian employees occupying regular, contractual, or casual positions, whether full-time or part-time; or workers engaged through the contract to service (COS) or job order, including duly accredited and registered barangay health workers (BHW) who are assigned to hospitals, laboratories or medical and quarantine facilities.

“Klaro kaayo nga pwede man gani matagaan ang mga non-health personnel, even job orders (workers), basta naghandle sya og Covid-related,” said Mayor Chan.

DBM AO 28 authorizes the grant of SRA to frontline public health workers (PHW) during the period of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) relative to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Based on AO 28, the Covid-19 SRA is equivalent to a maximum of 25 percent of the monthly basic salary or pay and should be given only to qualified public health workers assigned in hospitals and health care facilities, and who are directly catering to or are in contact with Covid-19 patients, patients under investigation or persons under monitoring. The SRA grant shall be pro-rated based on the number of days the PHW physically reported for work during the ECQ.

The City Government, however, followed AO 36 as amended by AO 42, in providing the maximum amount of P5,000 per public health worker subject to a given computation.

“So what AO 28 did not authorize to receive SRA, the AO 36 authorizes,” its press statement read.

“COA findings/report for the calendar 2021, wala gyu’y disallowance or suspension with regards sa gi-report sa maong pamantalaan,” Chan said.

The City Government noted that Jenny D. Dayola, State Auditor IV, in her “Independent Auditors Report” to Chan dated March 30, 2022, stated: “In our opinion, except for the effects of the matter described in the Basis for Qualified Opinion, a section of our report, the accompanying financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the City of Lapu-Lapu as [of] Dec. 31, 2021, and its financial performance, its cash flows and its comparison of budget and actual amounts for the year then ended under IPSAS.”

Audit report

SunStar based its report on the 2021 audit report of the COA, wherein state auditors said the City Government provided on Sept. 30, 2021 Covid-19 SRA worth P9.5 million to workers, who included those not qualified as public health workers workers as defined in AO 28.

SunStar cited AO 28, as this was the order COA cited in its audit report questioning the SRA disbursement.

COA said Lapu-Lapu City disbursed the SRA even though it failed to conform with provisions provided by AO 28 and DBM Circular 2020-2, which provides the guidelines on the grant of the Covid-19 SRA pursuant to AO 28.

In the same audit report, COA questioned the City for the payment of active hazard duty pay (AHDP) from February to April 2021 to frontline Human Resources for Health (HRHs) and SRA to health workers totaling P7.9 million as this did not conform with DBM-DOH Joint Circulars 1 and 2, which set the guidelines for the payment of the AHDP and the SRA.

COA said there was non-conformity with the circulars as most personnel were automatically given the allowance per month—P5,000 for SRA and P3,000 for AHDP covering the period of Sept. 19, 2020 to Dec. 19, 2020—even without proof that all personnel had physically reported for work during the period indicated; some personnel received the ADHP amounting to P9,000 without the supporting computation; and personnel positions, work assignments or accomplishment reports were not indicated in the payroll.

SunStar’s July 9 report included Lapu-Lapu’s response that those who received the SRA were entitled to the benefit because of their direct involvement in providing treatment and support care to Covid-19 patients; and that aside from medical personnel assigned at the city’s health facilities, those who received the benefit included personnel from the Lapu-Lapu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office involved in transporting confirmed Covid-19 patients to quarantine facilities and hospitals, and barangay health workers who assisted the city in the conduct of contact tracing and monitoring of Covid-19 patients.

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