The Commission on Audit(COA) has called the attention of the Department of Foreign Affairs(DFA) for PHP112,200,850.22 unclaimed End of Service Benefits (ESB), which have not been released to Overseas Filipino Workers(OFW) for over 10 years.
In its annual audit report on the DFA ending in December 2016, the state body also noted that the receipt and disposition by the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the end-of-service benefits (ESB) due to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) or beneficiaries of the deceased OFWs remained unaccounted in the DFA books, resulting in the non-recognition of the cash in bank account with a balance of PHP114,094,995.37 as of October 31, 2016 and trust liability account in the books.
COA said that aside from unclaimed and unreleased end of service (ESB) to OFW for one to more than 10 years totaling to PHP112,200,850.22, disbursements of the benefits were not also in accordance with the existing rules and regulations.
The audit body has recommended DFA to finalize the proposed guidelines in the processing of benefit claims to facilitate the prompt release of the ESB and hopefully to resolve issues and concerns affecting the release of benefits.
At the same time, it also asked DFA to submit a complete status report on all unclaimed and unreleased benefits indicating which has no identified beneficiary or with pending claim.
The state auditors further directed DFA to ensure compliance with prescribed guidelines and procedures in the monitoring, accounting and disbursement of trust receipts. “Observe the regular and standard flow of transactions in the processing of benefit claim; prepare the Budget Utilization Request and Status (BURS) and Disbursement Voucher (DV) and issue check to cover the payment of benefits,”it said.
“Despite previous years’ audit recommendation, the receipt and disposition by the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the end-of-service benefits (ESB) due to Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) or beneficiary of the deceased OFW remained unaccounted in the DFA books, resulting in the non-recognition of the cash in bank account with a balance of PHP114,094,995.37 as of October 31, 2016 and trust liability account in the books,”the audit body said.
The audit body further noted that the interest income earned from the bank deposits in the net amount of PHP1,894,145.15 as of same period was not recorded and remitted to the National Treasury.
“Moreover, unclaimed and unreleased benefits for one to more than 10 years totaled PHP112,200,850.22 while disbursement of the benefits was not in accordance with the existing relevant rules and regulations,”it said.
COA reminded that among the roles of the DFA in relation to its mandate, is to promote the rights and welfare of Filipino migrant workers is to facilitate the receipt and release of the end-of-service benefits (ESB) and other financial benefits due to the Filipino migrant worker or beneficiary of the deceased Filipino migrant workers.
The ESB or financial benefits are either released by the employer directly to the beneficiaries or remitted through the DFA Foreign Service Post (FSP).
The remittance of said benefits to FSP is receipted by its Collecting Officer and deposited to its bank account. Then, the Post remits the monies, by way of bank transfer, to the designated OUMWA bank account, PNB SA Account No. 3734-91500012 and informs the latter of the remittance, name of the OFW or beneficiary, and amount of benefits.
Upon receipt of the advice from the bank of the remittance, the OUMWA notifies the Filipino migrant worker or beneficiary and requires the latter to submit the necessary documents for the release of benefits.
In response to the previous years’ observation, the OUMWA explained that the delayed or non-release of benefits was attributed, among others, to the use of substitute name of OFWs, failure to reach an amicable settlement among the adverse claimants, illegal and undocumented workers, incomplete documentary requirements, multiple marriages, illegitimate children, family disputes, discrepancies and inconsistencies between records, no identified beneficiary, unknown/untraceable whereabouts of the beneficiaries and failure of the recipients outside Metro Manila to readily open a bank account due to fund restraints.
Team recommended to Management to consider the possibility of transferring the funds to the disposition of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) through the execution of Memorandum of Agreement as the latter has the complete data on the OFWs and their dependents, beneficiaries, or next-of-kin. Of whoever is capable of administering the death benefits of ESB of OFWs.
COA stressed that part of DFA’s mandated function is to protect the Filipino Migrant Workers and to promote their welfare. Management replied that despite OUMWA’s representations, the Department of Labor and Unemployment or DOLE and OWWA are reluctant to accept the responsibility of receiving and releasing the ESB.