LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Commission on Audit (COA) ordered dozens of researchers of the State-run Benguet State University (BSU) to return to the coffers of the government more than P6.7 million paid to them as honoraria for various research projects assigned to them that were funded by different funding institutions since the grant of the same was not in accordance to the criteria laid down for such entitlement.
In its annual audit report for year 2014, the COA cited a through review of the financial component of the research proposals showed that honoraria were granted to BSU personnel such as program direct tor, assistant program director, program leader, project leader, project staff and technical working committee.
The COA report added as per examination of the disbursements on the projects reviewed, the honoraria amounting to P6.7 million were granted to the BSU personnel on a monthly basis except for the members of the technical committee who were paid on a per meeting basis.
Based on the supporting documents reviewed relative to the grant of honoraria to researchers, the COA cited there is now showing that the BSU personnel involved or assigned thereat were conferred scientist rank based on the scientists career system and that there were no documents proving that they were certified as science and technology by the Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) during the project implementation periods corresponding to the grant of honoraria.
“Without satisfying the criteria established in Republic Act (RA) 8469 or the Magna Carta for Scientists and Joint Circular (JC) No. 1, series of 2013, the concerned BSU personnel are not qualified for entitlement for honoraria regardless of their having involved and/or assigned to the special projects considered to be scientific and technological activities,” the COA Stressed.
As regards to other special projects not considered as scientific and technological activities, the COA observed that the grant of honoraria to the BSU personnel involved or assigned in the projects is contrary to Budget Circular 2007-2 which prescribes the guidelines for the grant of honoraria due to assignment to government special projects.
Under existing rules and regulations, government personnel who are on part-time assignment to a special project which entails rendition of work over and above their regular work load may entitled to honoraria.
The COA argued that research being one of the 4-fold functions of BSU, assignments to special projects relative to research and development programs and projects would not entitle assigned personnel to honoraria.
Based on the annual budget of BSU covered within the implementation periods of the programs or projects, the COA pointed out there was no amount appropriated for the payment of Magna Carta for Scientists or honorarium for special projects.
The COA also noted is the fact that the propriety of the amount of honoraria has not been established with the absence of the documentary requirements called for under the rules such as the existence of a special project plan approved by the agency, project timetable, personnel assigned to the special project and their duties and responsibilities, expected deliverables per personnel, and estimated honoraria per personnel based on work hours beyond the regular work hours.
“The inclusion of honoraria in the project budgets would not authorize the grant of the said benefit as a matter of course simply by operation of the approved project budgets. All the requirements and conditions for the availment of the benefits laid down under RA 8439, JC No. 1, series of 2013 and BC No. 2007-2 must be fully met, otherwise the disbursements of funds relative thereto would be irregular,” the COA stated.
The COA asserted specifically, eligibility of the concerned BSU personnel to be entitled to the said benefits under the enabling law, rules and regulations must be clearly established through appointments as scientist ranks or certifications as science and technology personnel issued by the DOST Secretary; validity of funding sources must be proven through the appropriations of BSU under the general appropriates act, correctness of the amount of the benefit must be shown through computation in accordance with the prescribed formula and the total number of hours involved as certified by the appropriate officials of the personnel department of BSU and propriety of the disbursement should be established by completing the documents prescribed by the rules.
The COA recommended that BSU discontinue granting Magna Carta benefits to its personnel who had neither been conferred scientist rank under the Scientific Career System, nor certified as scientific and technology personnel by the DOST Secretary; discontinue granting honoraria to its personnel assigned to special projects/undertakings which are among the regular or permanent functions of the institution and process and approve claims for honoraria relative to the implementation of research and development projects based on full compliance with the requirements and conditions established under the enabling law , rules and regulations.
Parts of BSU’s comments relative thereto stated that it will no longer accept the implementation of special projects until such time that the issues relative thereto shall have been addressed by concerned government agencies.
The COA recognized the time and effort of BSU faculty members who are involved in the conduct of research programs and projects and whether faculty members involved in research are given equivalent teaching loads or not; or that the research is internally or externally funded; the same are not the issues raised in the audit observation.
The COA argued the main issue that BSU management was not able to address is that University personnel who are involved in the conduct of research programs and projects are not entitled to receive honoraria pursuant to existing rules and regulations.
By Herald Express News Team