Palace expects Calida to answer audit report on excess allowances

Solicitor General Jose Calida should explain the multi-million excess allowances his office received in 2017, Malacanang said on Saturday.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement, a day after the Commission on Audit (COA) ordered officials of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to return to the government P10.7 million in excess honoraria and allowances.

“I’m sure Sol-Gen Calida will reply to the COA observations in due course,” Roque told The Manila Times in a text message.

Based on COA’s 2017 annual audit report, Calida received the bulk of the excess honoraria and allowances amounting to P7.5 million.

Calida and OSG lawyers, according to the COA report, collected allowances for legal services rendered to client agencies that exceeded 50 percent of their respective salaries.

“The receipt of honoraria is not without limitations. COA Circular 85-25-E dated April 25, 1985 was issued to clarify the payment of service and/or incentive fees, remuneration, honoraria and all other extra compensation paid to government officials and employees which shall not exceed 50 percent of annual salary,” the state-run audit agency said.

Reacting to the audit report, the OSG said COA Circular No. 85-25-E “does not apply” to them because Presidential Decree (PD) 478 authorizes them to receive allowances and honoraria for legal services they render “without qualification.”

The OSG also stated that the circular could not be used to modify or supersede the provisions of PD 478.

Calida, in a statement on Friday, said the questions raised by COA over the excess allowances of the Solicitor General and other OSG lawyers collected was “not new.”

“It has been ongoing for the past five years since the time of Solicitor General Florin Hilbay,” Calida said.

“The OSG has consistently acted within the confines set by law. The honoraria and allowances were paid in accordance with law,” he added.

The OSG is the “law firm” of the government, with lawyers representing government agencies in any litigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer.

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