LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The State-run Benguet State University (BSU) will exhaust all administrative remedies to seek the reversal of a recent ruling by the Commission on Audit (COA) disallowing the payment of honoraria amounting to P6.7 million to its researchers involved in the conduct of studies.
Dr. Ben Ladilad, BSU president, cited the exhaustion of administrative remedies would allow them to file the appropriate petition before the proper courts once their appeal would be denied with finality.
In response to the COA findings, the BSU cited most of the special projects of the higher education institution are being done by academic personnel and faculty members who are fully edged in instruction, one of the core functions of the university, citing that one needs to exert utmost dedication and commitment to prepare the research proposal and compete with the funding of such research and subsequently implement the same.
If the research is funded by the university, the management cited the research is given an equivalent teaching load and the faculty member is not paid honorarium. For externally-funded researchers, however, the faculty member is not given equivalent teaching load but receives honorarium based on the approved contract incorporating the research proposal, where the budgetary requirements are indicated showing the honorarium.
BSU cited the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), one of the funding agencies of researches, is fully aware the state universities and colleges (SUCs) to include the university should promote research undertakings in accordance with the national higher education’s research agenda to crafted by the CHED stating that “research as major function in higher education, sets higher education apart from basic education.”
Further, BSU stated one of the criteria is CHED Order No. 2, series of 2011 which defines honorarium as “a form of compensation or reward paid over and above the regular pay in recognition of gratuitous services rendered by personnel covered under the guidelines. In general, honorarium as paid to personnel for additional work rendered which is not amount his regular functions, and/or personnel with expertise or professional standing in recognition of his broad superior knowledge extraordinary performance, efficient delivery of services and output.”
CHED recognizing the expertise of the SUC faculty, provides compensation in the form of honorarium for services being rendered above and beyond their regular functions, thus, BSU argued that it is the same situation for projects funded by other government agencies to include the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“We take exemption to that of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the DAR-ARCCESS Needs Assessment and other DAR projects as payments received on said engagement are not honorarium but consultancy fees,” the BSU management comment stated.
On the matter of the Magna Carta for Scientists, BSU stated ‘it is our humble submission that for research funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its attached bureaus and departments, the said requirements of being given a scientist rank and certified as science and technology specialists is satisfied by the contract signed by the university with DOST specifying the payment of honoraria and the names of the university personnel to be involved.
It added the credentials of the project proponents are actually being considered by the DOST in the approval or disapproval of the proposal. In fact, the funding of the research proposal is highly competitive with submissions from all state universities and colleges all over the country.
“It is therefore an honor for the university to have those research, development and extension programs be granted to BSU faculty members. That to us already satisfies the requirement of the joint circular,” the management said.
BSU claimed should it concede to the directives of the audit observation memorandum, all externally funded projects would be put on hold and the university would not be able to deliver its obligations in the contract. While the university can later argue that the funding agency, by technicality, cannot also comply with its obligation to pay honoraria as per the memorandum, its government service that would still be in the losing end.
On the part of BSU it asserted the approved externally-funded projects were included in the targets of the institution and if it would not be able to deliver what was targeted, its ranking and standing would consequently suffer and its budgetary allocations from the national government will also be reduced.
BSU prayed that it will be allowed to still continue paying honoraria for the ongoing research projects on the condition that the university make a written clarification from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the DOST regarding the said matter.
BSU emphasized should the said certification from the DOST Secretary be necessary despite a contract specifying honoraria, BSU will obtain such a certification, otherwise, it shall refraim from engaging in research funded externally.
By Dexter A. See