Orocio v. Commission on Audit
G.R. No. 147402; Jan. 14, 2004
On 25 May 1982, an accident occurred at the Malaya Thermal Plant of the National Power Corporation (NPC). The injured personnel were brought to the hospital for treatment. Total hospitalization expenses of Domingo Abodizo, a casual employee of O.P. Landrito’s General Services (OPLGS), reached P53,802.26. The NPC initially advanced this amount by setting it up as an account receivable from OPLGS deducted on a staggered basis from the latter’s billings against NPC until the same was fully satisfied. OPLGS requested for a refund of the total amount deducted from their billings representing payment of the advances made by the NPC. In a memorandum, petitioner, as officer-in-charge, recommended favorable action on OPLGS’ request. The refund of the hospitalization expenses for Domingo Abodizo was disallowed for “[u]nder the NPC-O.P. Landrito contract, there is no employer-employee relationship between the Corporation and the latter’s employees.
1) Does the legal opinion of petitioner, which was relied upon for the disbursement in question, preclude or bar the COA from disallowing in post-audit such disbursement?
2) Has the General Counsel of the COA the authority to decide a motion to reconsider the disallowance in question?
3) Is the petitioner personally liable for the disallowance on the theory that the disbursement was made on the basis thereof?
The NPC, as a government-owned corporation, is under the COA’s audit power. In determining whether an expenditure of a Government agency or instrumentality such as the NPC is irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable, the COA should not be bound by the opinion of the legal counsel of said agency or instrumentality which may have been the basis for the questioned disbursement. The COA, both under the 1973 and 1987 Constitution, is a collegial body. Its General Counsel cannot act for the Commission for he is not even a Commissioner thereof. He can only offer legal advice or render an opinion in order to aid the COA in the resolution of a case or a legal question. Thus, Nepomuceno’s endorsement cannot be considered as a “decision” of the COA. Even if the disallowance was proper, there would still be no basis for directly holding petitioner liable therefor; moreover, there would be no reason to debit immediately his account with the NPC. It was never claimed that petitioner was personally liable for the disallowed disbursement; only the approving authority, the management examiners and the Chief Accountant of the NPC were deemed liable therefor.