The Commission on Audit (COA) 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.
The state auditors cited Section 21 of the Magna Carta for PHW states that, “Public health worker in hospitals, sanitaria, rural health units, main centers, health infirmaries, barangay health stations, clinics and other health-related establishments located in difficult areas, strife-torn or embattled areas, distresses or isolated stations, prisons camps, mental hospitals, radiation-exposed clinics, laboratories or disease-infested areas or in areas declared under state of calamity or emergency for the duration thereof which expose them to great danger, contagion, radiation, volcanic activity/eruption occupational risks or perils to life as determined by the Secretary of Health or the Head of the unit with the approval of the Secretary of Health, shall be compensated hazard allowance equivalent to at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the monthly basic salary of health workers receiving salary grade 19 and below, and five percent (5%) for health workers with salary grade 20 and above.”
“It is clear that only public health workers working in establishments specifically mentioned in Section 21 are entitled to receive hazard pay benefits. As can be gleaned from the preceding provisions/requirements, PhilHealth employees, although considered as PHWs as contemplated under the UHC Law, should not be automatically entitled to receive hazard pay under RA No. 7305, as they fail to meet the primary condition on exposure to specific kinds of hazard,” COA said.
PhilHealth illegally gave P291-M worth of hazard pay to employees – COA
“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.
PhilHealth justified that its officers and employees are entitled to hazard pay since they are classified as PHWs under the Universal Health Care law and are exposed to occupational risks, perils to life, and physical hardships officials to the lowly clerks.
COA, however, rejected PhilHealth’s reason.
“Since PhilHealth is not compliant with the relevant rules and regulations, payments of hazard pay from 2016 to 2019 in an aggregate amount of P291.932 million were deemed irregular and disallowable in audit,” COA said.