COA calls out Lapu officials for release of Covid hazard pay

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THE Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the Lapu-Lapu City Government on why it gave P17 million in Covid-19 special risk allowances (SRA) and active hazard duty pay (AHDP) to non-health workers when the funds were intended only for public health workers.

In their 2021 audit report, state auditors said the City Government provided Covid-19 SRA worth P9.5 million to frontline public health workers on September 30, 2021 after the city was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) following a surge of Covid-19 cases in Cebu.

The SRA was granted based on Administrative Order (AO) 28 of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and DBM Budget Circular 2020-2.

Based on the AO, 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 who are 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 that the public health worker concerned physically reported for work during the ECQ.

But state auditors found that the Lapu-Lapu City Government disbursed the SRA even though they failed to conform with the provisions provided by AO 28 and DBM Circular 2020-2.

They found that the city’s Local Health Board issued a resolution granting specific amounts to a predetermined number of health workers, which is not in accordance with the authorized 25 percent of the monthly basic salary or pay of the public health workers entitled to the SRA.

Another discrepancy they found is that employees who are not public health workers were included as eligible recipients while some of the employees’ positions or designations were not indicated in the payroll.

State auditors also found that the period covered did not indicate how many days each employee physically reported for work while the ECQ was in effect.

State auditors recommended to the City Government to recompute the SRA per individual to determine whether or not the SRA received exceeded the authorized 25 percent of the monthly basic pay.

They also recommended to the City to provide a justification as to why they allowed ineligible individuals to receive the SRA, and to provide an inclusive period and total number of days that each public health worker physically reported for work.

Active Hazard Duty Pay

The COA also questioned the City for the payment of AHDP to frontline Human Resources for Health (HRHs) and SRA to health workers totaling P7.9 million as they could not ascertain its propriety, validity and legality.

State auditors said the City allegedly disbursed the P7.9 million without conforming to DBM-DOH Joint Circular 1 and 2, which sets the guidelines for the payment of the AHDP.

Both circulars stated that AHDP and SRA shall be granted to frontline HRHs, who are medical, allied-medical and other personnel in the public sector who are involved in the national health care response to mitigate the transmission of Covid-19 and prevent further loss of lives.

The provision in Joint Circular 1 states that frontline HRHs and health workers are required to report for work at their assigned work stations on the prescribed official working hours and the grant of the AHDP and SRA shall be pro-rated based on the number of days that the frontline HRHs/HWs physically reported for work in a month.

On December 23, 2020, the City Government received around P8.6 million intended for Covid-19 AHDP and SRA. Of the amount, the City disbursed only P7.9 million from February to April 2021.

State auditors, however, spotted several discrepancies during the disbursement of the AHDP and SRP, including that most personnel were automatically given the allowance per month—P5,000 for SRA and P3,000 for AHDP covering the period of September 19, 2020 until December 19, 2020—even without proof that all personnel had physically reported for work during the period indicated.

They also found that some personnel received the ADHP amounting to P9,000 without the supporting computation.

They also found that support or office personnel were granted ADHP amounting to P5,876 each without the required supporting documents.

State auditors also found that the City failed to indicate in the payroll the position, designation, work assignments or accomplishment reports for those who received the AHDP and SRA.

They recommended to the City to direct the City Accountant to submit proof that the personnel who received the AHDP and SRA were HRHs or health workers and had physically reported for work at their designated work assignments.

Above board

In their reply to COA’s report, city officials said those who received the SRA and AHDP, including non-health personnel, were entitled to the benefit because of their direct involvement in providing treatment and support care to Covid-19 patients.

City officials said that aside from medical personnel assigned at the city’s health facilities, they included personnel from the Lapu-Lapu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LLCDRRMO) as beneficiaries of the AHDP and SRA because they were involved in transporting confirmed Covid-19 patients to quarantine facilities and hospitals.

Aside from LLCDRRMO personnel, they also included barangay health workers who assisted the city in the conduct of contact tracing and monitoring of Covid-19 patients.

“In sum, all employees and other personnel granted with the SRA are public health workers whose services are vital in the fight against COVID-19 and confronted with the risk of infection,” city officials added.

But in a rejoinder, state auditors said the City has yet to submit documents required to prove that the personnel who claimed AHDP and SRA were entitled to the benefit.

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