Senate panel urges active involvement of COA, GCG in PhilHealth operations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 1) — The Senate Committee of the Whole is pushing for active involvement of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Governance Commission for GOCC (GCG) to ensure efficient operations and performance of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

During his presentation of the committee report on Tuesday, Senate President Tito Sotto recommended to the state-owned health insurer to increase involvement of state auditors in its operations even at the regional level to ensure that public funds are being utilized properly.

The COA revealed during one of the Senate hearings that PhilHealth is not giving the commission full access to financial statements and other documents needed, which are important to countercheck “adjustments” made in the agency's financial statements.

Sotto noted that in a 2017 COA report, PhilHealth reported a loss of ₱4.75 billion, which was later restated to a net income of ₱237.17 million the following year.

The accuracy of such adjustment is questionable since the “data source used to derive the amount of the benefit payments expenses is not the most accurate source of information,” he explained.

Net income for 2018 was also adjusted from ₱11.6 billon to ₱21.02 billion, which PhilHealth said was due to reduction in benefit claims expenses.

However, Sotto said this has no recorded basis or disclose of nature and reason that hindered COA to validate such adjustment.

As for the GCG, Sotto said the central policy-making and monitoring body should set skills and qualification required for appointive directors of the agency, and to consider suitability of candidates prior to submission of list of candidates to the President.

The GCG should also proactively evaluate officers’ performance, periodically assess performance of the agency as a whole, and to recommend measures to improve the agency’s performance when it comes to attaining its mandate of providing social health insurance coverage to all Filipinos.

Lawmakers questioned qualifications of several PhilHealth top officials, like former senior vice president (SVP) for legal sector Rodolfo del Rosario who was appointed his position barely five years after passing the bar examination.

It was also revealed by the Civil Service Commission before the House committees of public accounts and good government and public accountability that PhilHealth indeed used minimum standard qualifications in appointing SVPs.

Meanwhile, Senators also ordered the Anti-Money Laundering Council to immediately look into bank accounts of PhilHealth officials and private entities that are possibly involved “in the malversation of PhilHealth funds."

Some of the agency’s top officials have been named as members of the so-callled “mafia” within the agency, who allegedly stole P15 billion in alleged fraud schemes, as well as executives involved in the diversion of members’ premium benefits to private accounts.

The Senate committee has recommended filing criminal and administrative charges against Health Secretary and PhilHealth board chair Francisco Duque III, former PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, and other top officials due to corruption controversies.