Drilon hits PhilHealth's plan to tap int'l auditor

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FILE PHOTO. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 18) — Instead of tapping an international auditing group, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) should let the Commission on Audit (COA) look into its funds, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Sunday.

"Dapat ang controlling 'yung COA. Pwede siguro kumuha ng technical people pero ang final say ang COA," the senator said in a radio interview.

[Translation: The COA should be in control. Maybe they can outsource technical people, but the COA should have the final say.]

"Hindi pwedeng hindi COA ang mag-audit sang-ayon sa ating Constitution," he added.

[Translation: The COA should be the one auditing PhilHealth as mandated by the Constitution.]

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales was quoted in reports as saying that the state insurer is "negotiating" with a global consultancy firm to look into its accounts, noting that PhilHealth has allegedly lost ₱154 billion due to irregularities.

According to reports, Morales said COA might have not found the missing amount because it is mandated to look into government agencies' efficiency and not corruption.

Under the law, the COA is mandated "to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCC) with original charters, and on a post-audit basis." PhilHealth is a GOCC operating under the Health department.

Congressional probes have been conducted following the revelation of an alleged massive insurance fraud involving WellMed Dialysis Center, which supposedly defrauded PhilHealth by making fake claims for dialysis patients who were already dead.

READ: PhilHealth sues dialysis center, admits widespread 'ghost treatments'

RELATED: PNP, NBI to probe ‘ghost dialysis’ mess

In a Senate hearing on alleged PhilHealth anomalies on Wednesday, a former PhilHealth official bared the names of members of an alleged “mafia” in the state insurer. 

Drilon renewed his call for the COA to conduct a "special audit" on PhilHealth's funds, saying an "annual audit is not enough", given the string of corruption allegations hounding the company.

“It involves billion pesos of public money. The government provides subsidy to Philhealth to cover for the medical expenses of the poor and informal sector, which amounts to ₱257 billion next year and ₱319 billion by 2024 due to the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act,” Drilon said.

Nakakatakot ito dahil nakasalalay rito yung benefits ng mga Pilipino. Malaking pera ang nakasalalay rito. [Translation: It's worrisome because a lot of Filipinos rely on its funds. It involves huge amounts of money.] We should not stop until we get to the bottom of this issue, so we can come up with solutions and legislation to prevent corruption, increase the agency’s collection efficiency and improve claims processing and benefit development,” Drilon said.

The senator pointed out the need to develop PhilHealth's auditing arm and collection efficiency.

He also finds the frequent change of leadership in the state-run company "unusual", noting that PhilHealth had four presidents in the past three years.

“Something is wrong with the system. Paano mo naman mapatakbo ang isang organisasyon na bawat taon ay nagpapalit ng pangulo [Translation: How can you run an organization that changes its leaders every year],” Drilon said.