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Water execs admit 25-month bonuses

By Maila Ager
First Posted 13:54:00 08/31/2010

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Government Contracts, Government, Laws

MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE 2) Officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) took the hot seat on Tuesday at the resumption of the Senate's investigation into the alleged excessive salaries and benefits of some officials of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).

Testifying before a joint hearing by the Senate committees on finance and government corporations, MWSS officer-in-charge Macra Cruz admitted that the agency provides 25-month bonuses for its employees, including a ?family day? allowance, which was derived from the required five percent share of the agency's net income intended for ?gender advocate and development.?

But despite of this huge bonus, the agency incurred about P3.5 billion losses in 2008.

Responding to Senator Franklin Drilon's questions, Cruz confirmed that the MWSS incurred P3,553,491,000 losses in 2008 and P399 million in 2009.

But Cruz said this huge loss was due to ?fluctuation on foreign currency.?

And when asked again by Drilon to confirm if MWSS employees were receiving 19 months worth of bonuses, Cruz even corrected the senator, saying it was actually 25 months.

?You were paid 25 months and 12 months' basic (salary). That's a total of 37 months in a year,? exclaimed Drilon.

Drilon's co-chairman, Senator Ralph Recto, was also shocked that MWSS employees have been receiving huge bonuses when the agency was losing money.

?Hindi ba dapat if you have losses, hindi dapat magbigay ng ganun karaming bonuses (If there are losses, you shouldn't be giving that much bonuses, right)?? asked Recto.

?Wala ba kayong National Heroes' Day bonus? (Don't you have a bonus pay for National Heroes' Day?)? asked Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate finance committee.
?Wala po sir (None sir),? said Cruz.

?Ah wala. Baka next year, pag isipan nyo (I see. Maybe next year, you should think about it),? Drilon said in jest.

But Cruz said their bonuses were not that much when they were losing heavily in 2008.

Meanwhile, Commission on Audit assistant commissioner Jaime Naranjo told the same hearing that CoA has ?disallowed? the 33 types of bonuses being enjoyed by employees and officers of the MWSS for ?lack of legal basis.?

But the MWSS, Naranjo said, made an appeal before their office.

?There are 33 types of bonuses granted and we disallowed this for lack of legal basis,? Naranjo said.

?In fact, for the year 2009, of the P240 million bonus granted to MWSS personnel and employees and officers P156M has been disallowed,? he pointed out.

Since 2007, Naranjo said the COA disapproved all bonuses of MWSS except its per diems on board meetings.

Aside from what he described as ?fantastic? bonuses, Drilon noted that the MWSS had unremmitted dividends to the government of P258.6 million pesos from 1998 to 2009.

?A total of P741 million should have been paid at least to the national government consistent with the provision of Republic Act 7656. You only remitted P483 million and you, therefore, owe the national government at least P258.6 million in unremmitted dividends,? said the senator.

Cruz said the agency intends to pay half of the balance or about P130 million within the year.

The MWSS official boasted, however, that from 1997 to 2010, the agency paid about P3.6 billion to its retirees, leaving them only with P450 million of unpaid claims.

?We have paid already. We're not getting, for your information, any subsidy from the national government,? said Cruz.

Drilon then retorted: ?May utang na loob a ang gobyenro sa inyo? (Does the government owe you a debt of gratitude?)?

Before this, Drilon questioned the board chairman of the MWSS, Oscar Garcia, for receiving P5.4 million for attending 47 meetings in 2009 alone.

Garcia does not hold any executive position in the agency but only as chairman of the board, where he receives P14,000 per diem per meeting

Drilon said the board met 47 times in 2009 or at least once a week.

?We have five meetings usually per month,? he said, adding that it was probably because of the typhoon ?Ondoy? where the MWSS was at the forefront of the calamity.

But Drilon also pointed out that the board conducted two board meetings in a day and that this happened twice.

Garcia confirmed this but immediately clarified that they were only paid one per diem even when they met twice day.

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