By Patricia Denise M. Chiu, March 25 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Image Credit to ABS-CBN News

The Commission on Audit (COA) has denied the appeal of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to reconsider its earlier notice of disallowance covering some P8.1 million in meal allowances granted to MWSS officials in 2012 and 2014.

Lacked merit

In a three-page decision, the COA said that in addition to the late filing of the MWSS petition, it also lacked merit.

In a notice of disallowance dated June 30, 2014, the COA said the MWSS payment of meal allowances were P8,173,730 in excess of the approved amount.

According to the decision, the MWSS petition for review was submitted 362 days after the original notice of disallowance.

“Based on the foregoing, petitioners had already exhausted the reglementary period of six months or 180 days to file the petition for review,” the decision said.

However, in the same decision, the COA said that even if the appeal was decided based purely on merit, it would still have been denied.

“At any rate, even if the petition is decided on the merits, it would still be denied because the power of the MWSS Board of Trustees is not absolute and plenary, particularly in the grant of additional allowances to its personnel,” the decision said.

Presidential OK needed

The audit body went on to explain that meal allowances is among “nonintegrated allowances,” which was allowed to be continued only for those MWSS officials who were already in position as of June 30, 1989.

“Upon the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6758 [or the Salary Standardization Law] on July 1, 1989, meal allowance is an additional benefit that requires presidential approval or legislative issuance for its grant,” the COA said, adding that in the absence of the appropriate authorization, MWSS officials had “no legal basis or authority to receive the meal allowance or increase the meal allowance” to officials who assumed their position after the salary standardization law took effect.

The Inquirer tried but failed to get a reaction from MWSS executives on Sunday.

The notice of disallowance was first issued when the MWSS gave their employees meal allowances.