A total of 5,721 deceased claimants under the payroll of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) continued receiving their monthly pension amounting to P70.25 million, more than half of which remains unrefunded, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).
In its 2018 audit of the PVAO, state auditors said 2,545 of the claims were from dead veterans while the remaining 3,176 came from their spouses or minor children.
The COA said the claimants received their regular monthly pensions ranging from one month to five years despite their reported deaths.
"Comparison of the payroll pensioners and list of reported deaths for 2018 disclosed that 5,721 or 84.5 percent out of 6,768 total reported deaths continuously received their regular monthly pensions which ranged from one to 64 months, thus resulted in the overpayment amounting to P70,250,300," the audit read.
The COA further said P36.45 million of the released pension fund remains unrefunded to the government, while the recovered amount of more than P33.7 million has yet to be remitted to the Bureau of the Treasury.
The COA said this violates Section 10 of the 2018 General Appropriations Act, which states all unused funds from government agencies must be reverted back to the general fund.
Currently, six banks and three financial institutions have been tapped to handle the pension of PVAO claimants.
The banks include the Land Bank of the Philippines, Philippine Veterans Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines, United Coconut Planters Bank, Asia United Bank, and Maybank.
The financial institutions, meanwhile, are composed of the Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Association Inc., Composite Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc., and the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc.
The PVAO has implemented a Simplified Validation Program to reduce processing time and make the process more convenient to pensioners, according to the COA.
The COA said the program is supervised by the Veterans Records Management Division, which shall validate if the claimants are still alive or not.
Nonetheless, the audit agency praised the PVAO for decreasing the number of incorrect payments. The COA said previous discrepancies ranged from one month to 11 years.
"The decrease was due to additional enhancement in their systems to gradually lessen if not eliminate defects in the system such as continuous payment of pension to deceased pensioners," it said.
The COA directed the PVAO to immediately remit the recovered funds to the national treasury and "hold liable" the employees involved in the validation of pension benefits.
The PVAO management explained to the COA that the unremitted funds would be used as payment for accrued pensions or pensions due to other claimants. It said this had the authority of the Department of Budget and Management. — MDM, GMA News