Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad today said that the Magna Carta benefits for public health workers were not slashed down, adding that the benefits due them received proper budgetary support under the FY 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“The Aquino administration admires the noble work being done by our public health workers, especially those in the far-flung, rural and even hazardous areas. It is for this reason that the GAA provides P348.1 million for the magna carta benefits of all public health employees, which the DBM has already released to the Department of Health (DoH) early this year,” he said.
This appropriation, he said, covers the grant of a monthly laundry allowance of P125, as well as subsistence pay amounting to P30/day for public health workers under the DOH. But as DOH authorized the increase of the laundry and subsistence allowances for public health workers to P150/month and P50/day, respectively, the difference should be sourced from agency savings, which are properly established at the end of the fiscal year.
Section 41 of the General Provisions under the 2012 GAA mandates that, “the payment of magna carta benefits of public health workers… [etc.] in the government shall be limited to the appropriations authorized in this Act for the purpose. Augmentation thereof from any available savings of the agency shall be subject to the approval of the DBM.”
“DBM must comply with the rules and regulations set in the GAA. Because the DOH authorized the augmentation of benefits for public health workers, the agency must use their savings to account for the difference between the appropriated rates and the DoH-augmented rates,” Abad said.
Abad also said that DBM is now working closely with the DoH in addressing issues in the grant of such benefits. He emphasized the need to balance the clamor of public health workers with the scarcity of government resources and the need to enforce rules on the use of funds, particularly savings.
He noted that in the past, Magna Carta benefits due to public health workers have been prone to abuse, with augmented benefits already being released to employees in the first quarter of the year, long before the DOH could correctly establish agency savings at the end of the year.
Abad added that the DBM is reevaluating funding and disbursement guidelines for Magna Carta benefits, which have frequently been constrained by scarce government resources, inefficiencies in targeting beneficiaries, and lack of revenue measures designed to go with the benefits.
“Ultimately, we need to streamline the implementation of these benefits. For one, only those who are entitled to these—those exposed to real risks—should receive the corresponding hazard pay. Additionally, only actual working days should be accounted for when calculating the subsistence allowance. We intend to issue a Joint Circular on this with the proper lead agencies,” Abad said.
He added that actual expenditure requirements for magna carta benefits should be established, so that remunerations will be charged from an agency’s Personal Services appropriations, rather than from their savings on their budgets for other operating expenses.