Constitutional Law

TESDA v. COA G.R. No. 196418, February 10, 2015 Commission on Audit, Separation of Powers, General Appropriations Act

FACTS:

TESDA, an instrumentality of the Government established under R. A. No. 7796, is an attached agency of the DOLE.

In 2003, the DOLE Secretary issued AO No. 430, authorizing the payment of healthcare maintenance allowance of P5,000.00 to all officials and employees of the DOLE, including its bureaus and attached agencies.

Upon post-audit, COA issued AOM No. 04-005 which states that DOLE Administrative Order No. 430 is clearly without legal basis.

A Notice of Disallowance was issued to the TESDA Director General. The TESDA filed an appeal before the COA.

However, the COA promulgated the now assailed decision denying the appeal for lack of merit.

 

ISSUES:

  1. Whether or not the COA acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction because it disallowed that payment of healthcare maintenance allowance.
  2. Whether or not the General Provisions of the 2003 General Appropriations Act are self-executory.

 

RULING:

 

  1. The petition has no merit.

We uphold the disallowance by the COA of the payment of the P5,000.00 as healthcare maintenance allowance.

The Constitution has made the COA “the guardian of public funds, vesting it with broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of public funds and property, including the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods for such review, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.” Thus, the COA is generally accorded complete discretion in the exercise of its constitutional duty and responsibility to examine and audit expenditures of public funds, particularly those which are perceptibly beyond what is sanctioned by law.

Verily, the Court has sustained the decisions of administrative authorities like the COA as a matter of general policy, not only on the basis of the doctrine of separation of powers but also upon the recognition that such administrative authorities held the expertise as to the laws they are entrusted to enforce.

We find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COA in issuing the assailed decision.

 

2.

Pursuant to Article VI Section 29 (1) of the 1987 Constitution, no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law. Hence, the GAA should be purposeful, deliberate, and precise in its contents and stipulations. Also, the COA was correct when it held that the provisions of the GAA were not self-executory. This meant that the execution of the GAA was still subject to a program of expenditure to be approved by the President, and such approved program of expenditure was the basis for the release of funds. For that matter, Section 34, Chapter 5, Book VI of the Administrative Code (Executive Order No. 292) states that

Section 34. Program of Expenditure – The Secretary of Budget shall recommend to the President the year’s program of expenditure for each agency of the government on the basis of authorized appropriations. The approved expenditure program shall constitute the basis for fund release during the fiscal period, subject to such policies, rules and regulations as may be approved by the President.

The rules on National Government Budgeting as prescribed by the Administrative Code are not idle or empty exercises. The mere approval by Congress of the GAA does not instantly make the funds available for spending by the Executive Department.

Section 5 of Presidential Decree No. 1597 (Further Rationalizing the System of Compensation and Position Classification in the National Government) states that the authority to approve the grant of allowances, honoraria, and other fringe benefits to government employees, regardless of whether such endowment is payable by their respective offices or by other agencies of the Government, is vested in the President. As such, the precipitous release and payment of the healthcare maintenance allowance benefits without any authorization from the Office of the President is without basis and should be rightfully disallowed.

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