THE Commission on Audit has ordered Environment Secretary Regina Lopez to justify the hiring of 55 highly-paid “ghost employees” receiving up to P120,000 a month or more than twice the maximum salary rates “with no particular outputs, deliverables or services.”
Of the 55 consultants, 14 have claimed salaries amounting to P3.29 million without outputs and without proof that they reported for work, state auditors said in a memorandum to Lopez dated March 3, 2017.
In a 7-page Audit Observation Memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by Manila Standard, COA state auditors Aurora Caramat and Jesusa Gauang directed Lopez to submit her basis for the rates given to the contractuals and consultants.
“Of the 55 contracts of service [COS] hired by Lopez, six were contracted with salary exceeding the maximum salary rates, 11 for positions not listed in the same salary tables and 14 as consultants with no particular outputs, deliverables or services requiring highly specialized or technical expertise in the field of special knowledge or training,” the state auditors said.
The CoA said the contracts of the two technical assistants Sarah Jane Bulan and Celina Therese Rotea were given rates more than twice the rate as specified under the DENR memoranda at P57,500 each instead of the regular P15,000 a month.
Bulan and Rotea also did not stipulate the submission of approved daily time record for salary claim, which was a violation of provisions in the CoA circular.
“Considering that the functions to be performed by these technical assistants are clerical and administrative in nature and they were not contracted for a specific job that requires the submission of a specific output, they have to work on a regular basis and submit approved DTR when claiming their salaries,” the state auditors said.
Lopez, they said, also contracted 11 people for positions not listed in the salary tables such as project management specialist, financial management adviser, development communication consultant, communication specialist, social safeguards specialist, project coordinator, rural infrastructure specialist, management information system specialist, media relations consultant, special assistant to the secretary on environmental law enforcement and special assistant to the secretary that were getting from a low of P42,652 to a high of P100,000.
The CoA said the hiring for these positions not listed in the salary table was not coursed through the chief of the personnel division for review.
“Hence, the positions and corresponding salaries were not evaluated by said division, as prescribed under the DENR memorandum,” the CoA auditors said.
The state auditors said the contracts of 14 consultants were found not to contain stipulation requiring the submission of particular outputs, deliverables or of services that demand highly specialized or technical expertise.
The highly-paid consultants performed functions that involved “ordinary functions, which can be provided by the regular staff of the agency, or is within the optimum in-house capability.”
The CoA recommended that Lopez hire COS in accordance with the set guidelines issued by the department and use the salary table in assigning rates to qualified contractual personnel for uniformity in application.
Lopez was also told to evaluate the qualifications and technical expertise of the consultant to be hired and specify in the contract the particular outputs and deliverables expected from the consultant.
“Claims for salaries of the 14 consultants and two technical assistants in the total amount of P3,291,599.87 were erroneously recorded under consultancy services, thereby overstating said account and understating the other professional services account, both by same amount,” the state auditors said.
“We recommend that management require the accounting section to adjust the error in recording the cost of services of 14 consultants and two technical assistants and subsequently, observe the recording of the cost of services of COS with no particular outputs to its proper account,” said Caramat, CoA audit team leader, and Gauang, CoA supervising auditor.
Arturo Valdez, special assistant to the secretary on the environmental law, who was getting a salary of P100,000 a month, has so far received a gross amount of P500,000 in salaries, CoA records show.
The CoA auditors warned that should Lopez fail to justify the errors in salary rates and their functions and performance, these will be disallowed in audit.