NTC buys 44 cellphones worth P2.1 million – COA

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for buying high-end cellphones for its executive officials while its engineers in the field were using borrowed phones.

COA reported on its 2019 annual audit report on the NTC that the agency’s Central Office (CO) and National Capital Region (NCR) Office bought 44 mobile phones amounting to P2.1 million.

The state auditors said the expensive phones were procured in 2018 and 2019 for NTC’s testing the users’ experience in terms of coverage, speed, and reliability of mobile broadband services of public telecommunications entities (PTEs).

Upon validation, COA found that only four of the high-end phones were given to engineers doing fieldwork for the project. The branch directors and officer-in-charge (OIC) directors got most of the cellphones while the rest of the units remained unused by the end of 2019.

NTC replied and admitted that most of the mobile phones were issued to branch directors and their technical staff supposedly “to conduct validation anytime and anywhere and to them in the conduct of their study and research so they can propose or formulate new policies or regulations.”

NTC bought 44 cellphones worth P2.1 million – COA

However, COA maintained that the cellphones were bought for testing mobile internet speed and other broadband services in specific locations or barangays.

The audit team said, “the NTC never submitted the results of the evaluation of the broadband speed, report on the experience of mobile broadband users, and notifications of the concerned telecommunications companies in cases of weak broadband speed or signal.”

Meanwhile, COA also reported that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) released P291-million worth of hazard pay to its employees illegally.

The COA’s 2019 yearly audit report said the PhilHealth granted P236 million to regular employees and P55 million to casual employees from 2016 to 2019. The said distribution violated Republic Act 7305 or the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers (PHW), among other rules and regulations.

“Also, PhilHealth failed to show that the existence of exposure to such hazards was determined by the Secretary of Health or by the head of agency with the former’s approval,” COA added.