Reports show hiring binge of consultants at MWSSBy Gil Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A college buddy and contributor to President Aquino’s campaign who was brought into the administration to make sweeping changes at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) embarked on a hiring binge of consultants in his first two years in office in the regulatory body.
Based on documents obtained by the Inquirer, MWSS Administrator Gerardo A.I. Esquivel hired a total of 24 consultants from April 2011 to March 2012 with monthly salaries ranging from a low of P5,000 to a high of P125,000. Collectively, the consultants received a total of P5.3 million in the period between March 2011 and August 2012, the documents showed. The salaries did not include perks such as honoraria and allowances granted by the board based on the frequency of meetings.
It could not be confirmed whether any of the contracts had been extended or the salaries adjusted. Esquivel said he had only eight consultants at present.
In a phone interview, Esquivel admitted that the number of consultants he hired would look conspicuous if the performance of the MWSS during his first two years in office was not taken into consideration.
“Under a microscope, this number would look big. But when you look at the larger picture, this is insignificant compared to the P334 million and P1.98 billion income we registered in my first two years in office from the negative P34 million we had in 2010,” said Esquivel, noting that he only receives P70,000 a month in pay.
An MWSS report indicated that most of the agency’s profits came from the appreciation of the peso against the dollar, with foreign exchange gains surging to P1.388 billion in 2012 from P147.044 million the year before.
Esquivel and President Aquino were 1981 graduates of the Ateneo de Manila University. Esquivel contributed P10 million to Aquino’s campaign in 2010.
Esquivel is an architect whose main job was being chairman of ASEC Development and Construction Corp. before he assumed the post at the MWSS. He was expected to usher in a new era at the MWSS after the President himself exposed in his first State of the Nation Address the excessive bonuses and allowances lavished by the board members on themselves and the agency’s employees.
Esquivel said that since the bonuses and allowances were drastically cut (he has denied accusations that the perks have continued under his watch), most of the employees had been reluctant to work, which necessitated the hiring of consultants.
“Our consultants are high-caliber, they are well educated and deserve their fees,” he said.
Copies of MWSS board resolutions showed that among the biggest recipients of the fees were Jose Marlon Pabiton and Mabel D. Mendoza who were each given three contracts with a coverage period of two to three months in 2011 and 2012 with a fee of P125,000 per month for the first contract and P50,000 per month for the second and third contracts.
Pabiton and Mendoza were initially hired in April and May 2011 for their expertise in the field of finance, control and management. It could not be determined why their fees were lowered in their next two contracts based on the documents at hand.
Group of 3
The MWSS also hired a group of three persons—Carlos and Norman Agatep, and Audrey General—for a fee P100,000 a month covering a four-month contract.
Eight received P50,000 in monthly fees for three- to four-month contracts in 2011 and 2012—Pamela Ann da Silva (strategic management consultant for the corporate office), Rodrigo Gatmaitan Jr., Teresa Benitez, Diane Tan-Andin, Oliver Macapinlac, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Marian Roces and Emmanuel Caparas (his first contract was only for P5,000 a month).
Two received P30,000 a month (Raymund Mariano and Nida Bravo) and two others got P25,000 a month (Igino Dalao and Katrina Tan).
Esquivel also recommended the hiring of seven technical consultants from January to August last year at a monthly fee of P35,000 for the project manager, P30,000 for the assistant project manager and P25,000 for each of the five foresters.