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Nationwide round-up (11/29/20)

Audit agency says technology, citizen support ensure government accountability amid pandemic

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) has adopted innovative technologies and encouraged citizen participation to ensure government accountability amid a coronavirus pandemic, its chairman said Friday. During an online webinar conducted by Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute, CoA Chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo said the new environment had opened opportunities for more creative ways of performing the audit function. Mr. Aguinaldo said the commission has created a task force to lead its Audit Modernization Program, which is intended to enhance the commission’s “resilience in times of crises or emergency, by optimizing the use of science, technology, and innovation.” The task force has also been testing the use of artificial intelligence to detect statistical anomalies in transactions, he added. “CoA auditors adapted to these changes, in a manner that, while there is a recognition of a certain level of leniency since agencies need to be creative to ensure effectiveness, efficiency, and economy in providing services; and, to ensure the safety of their personnel, the receipt from all sources and utilization of COVID-19 funds and other resources, in cash and in-kind, are still expected to be fully and properly accounted for,” Mr. Aguinaldo said. The commission’s Citizen Participatory Audit also enabled state auditors to “come face-to-face with representatives of civil society to know each other better, co-create goals and objectives, and obtain feedback on possible audit topics and issues that the CoA can address.” This platform may be later expanded for citizen-partnership engagements. “The CoA will partner with civil society organizations in validating the compliance of procuring entities with the publication requirements. CSO members who are authorized by the COA to be citizen-auditors, will do this in the safety of their homes,” he said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

P3.45B released to OFWs
A TOTAL of P3.45 billion has been released as of November 28 to 338,900 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) reported on Sunday. These beneficiaries are part of the 389,996 applications approved by DoLE since April. The department initially had P3.5 billion allocated for its  Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program, a one-time cash grant of P10,000 for each displaced OFW. Another P2 billion, which will benefit 200,000 OFWs, will be distributed for the AKAP program as provided under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act. Starting Monday, OFWs who will be repatriated can already apply for the AKAP benefit before returning to the country. “In the new system, all new applications for AKAP will be accepted through the website oasis.owwa.gov.ph for displaced OFWs who are scheduled for repatriation. This will allow the offices of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to process and evaluate the applications in advance,” the DoLE said. — Gillian M. Cortez 

GSIS to release P3.3-B Christmas cash gift to old-age, disability pensioners

THE Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will release P3.3 billion of Christmas cash gift to old-age and disability pensioners starting Dec. 1. The state agency for public sector workers said this will benefit 330,496 members. “Every year, our pensioners look forward to receiving the cash gift which they call their Christmas bonus. Thus, we made sure that the cash gift will be credited to their electronic card before Christmas this year to  somehow relieve them of the additional financial expenses during the Christmas season,” GSIS President and General Manager Rolando L. Macasaet said in a statement. Qualified pensioners include those who received their Christmas cash gift last year ranging from P10,000 to P12,600. Pensioners who resumed their regular monthly pension after Dec. 31 last year will also have a maximum cash gift of P10,000. Those with suspended pensions due to pending information revalidation requirement will receive the cash gift after reactivation on or before June 30, 2021. The Christmas cash gift is also not available to survivorship pensioners, dependent pensioners, pensioners under RA 7699 or the Portability Law, and those receiving pro-rata pension. New pensioners who availed of immediate pension in 2016 and this year, and those who resigned or separated from government service before reaching 60 years old and started receiving their regular monthly pension between 2016 and 2020 will start getting the Christmas cash benefit five years after the retirement date or the commencement of regular pension. — Kathryn Kristina T. Jose

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