AN OFFICIAL of Mactan airport believes the explanations submitted to the Commission on Audit (COA) should be enough to justify expenses COA has questioned.

Legal Officer Glenn Napuli also said the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) has yet to receive a notice of disallowance for their 2009 expenses, including P19.9 million in anniversary and performance bonuses.

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In its audit report released last month, COA asked the MCIAA to return the bonuses. It also said it disallowed P13.79 million in 2008, out of the P20 million that MCIAA budgeted for anniversary and performance bonuses.

But Napuli said the COA auditors’ citing “lack of legal basis” in issuing notices of suspension or disallowance on MCIAA expenses “is not correct,” because Section 7 of Republic Act 6958 empowers the airport’s board to set salaries and benefits.

This section in RA 6958 or the MCIAA Charter is the “legal basis” state auditors have been asking for, he said.

Napuli was a state auditor of COA before he transferred as legal officer of MCIAA, a government-owned and controlled corporation.

COA auditors, he pointed out, cited Section 17 of Presidential Decree 985—as amended by RA 6758 or the Salary Standardization Law—which states it is the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that will administer the compensation system of government agencies.

In Mactan airport’s case, said Napuli, the law that applies is RA 6958 or the authority’s charter.

When asked why MCIAA continued to give bonuses in 2009 when COA already disallowed it in 2008, Napuli again cited the charter and pointed out its employees can use the amount for their obligations.

He said the MCIAA board and management cannot compromise the welfare of personnel merely because of “an erroneous COA comment.”

“The COA also gives bonuses and benefits to its officials and employees, and I don’t know what their legal basis is. In the case of MCIAA, our legal basis is Section 7 of RA 6958,” Napuli said.

In the report, the team of state auditor Ma. Irma Purog also pointed out a consultant on the titling of lands was fully paid P14.62 million, even if his task was not completed.

But Napuli said that runs counter to the order of the Regional Trial Court in Lapu-Lapu City directing MCIAA to publish their petition for the reconstitution of title in the National Printing Office, because all the requirements have been met.

After the consultant submitted all the documents, which he gathered based on the contract, the MCIAA legal office prepared the pleadings for the reconstitution of land titles.

Lawyers of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) evaluated all the documents needed for the titling of lands and when they found these to be complete, the solicitor general signed it.

“So, if the COA will issue a notice of disallowance for the P14.692 million, citing non-completion of task, it will run counter to the OSG findings and the order of the court,” Napuli said.

The MCIAA board’s recent decision to grant P500,000 in severance pay to a retired board member has renewed attention in the airport authority’s finances.

In its annual report, COA said the MCIAA failed to submit its P1.22-billion operating budget for 2009 to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), for review.

But management, according to COA, argued that under its charter, only the MCIAA board has to review and approve the budget, and that there is no need for the DBM to examine it. (EOB)