BIR says salaries for its lawyers, accountants no longer competitive
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is facing a massive deficit in manpower because salaries offered to lawyers and accountants in the agency are no longer competitive, Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. admitted on Monday.
Lumagui mentioned this reason during the Department of Finance (DOF) proposed budget deliberations before the Senate Committee on Finance after Senator Win Gatchalian questioned DOF for having at least 11,745 unfilled positions — 2,761 from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and 7,724 from the BIR.
BIR and the BOC are attached agencies of the DOF.
According to Lumagui, they have tried to smoothen out processes in hiring, especially for provincial and regional offices, by applying for the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Program to Institutionalize Meritocracy and Excellence in Human Resource Management (PRIME-HRM), which allows departments and offices to hire employees faster.
“The main problems that we’re having are first — well, we’re addressing it right now — we’re active in the promotion so that we can hire more employees, and also, we’re also aggressive on the HRM PRIME so that the regions can also hire on their own without undergoing through the national office,” Lumagui said.
“Our main problem is the difficulty in recruiting personnel considering the low salary that the BIR has compared with other government agencies like for our lawyers and our accountants, the salary of BIR officials compared with like a prosecutor or a PAO (Public Attorney’s Office), is very, very, it’s not competitive,” he added.
Gatchalian noted that hastening processes would not do much to make BIR’s offerings competitive, especially as Lumagui cited the huge salary discrepancy between entry-level positions for lawyers. For example, Lumagui noted that the entry-level at their bureau is P27,000 monthly, but CSC gives lawyers a salary of P51,000.
“The basic (solution), I think, is the salary package, I think no matter how we improve the process, if the basic attraction, which is the salary, is low, it’s gonna be very difficult for the BIR and the BOC also to attract talents,” Gatchalian said.
“Especially (since) this is an enforcement group, eh, and we need to also have a high level of or at least industry-level packages so that we can ward off temptation, we can attract the best talent, and also improve credibility and integrity within the office,” he added.
Committee chairperson and Senator Sonny Angara then asked Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno as to what possible solution could be derived from this situation, factoring in the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) tendency to avoid allowing salary increases for just a specific agency.
In response, Diokno said that BIR can request to Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman for salary increases, aside from reclassifying positions unique to the BIR — so that higher salaries can be given for sensitive positions.
“Sec. Ben I’ll ask you in the abstract, are you in favor, for example, because the problem with, usually DBM is very reluctant to single out any portion of the bureaucracy for a salary raise. But Senator Win and Commissioner Jun (Lumagui) are correct. These are very sensitive positions — it’s linked to graft and corruption, it’s linked to performance — if we really want good people, we need to kind of make it special right?” Angara said.
“I think there’s a justification for not only salary adjustment but maybe reclassification of the collector position. That item is important because there’s no comparable position in other government agencies eh, so maybe we can evaluate that one, collector. Because if one collects taxes for the government, I don’t see any comparable position in government, right?” Diokno replied.
“Because the Congress passed adjustments for prosecutors, even for the PAO, they cannot compete with lawyers from PAO right? So maybe we should seriously consider reclassifying the positions of tax collectors and their lawyers, et cetera. They can request it before Mina (Pangandaman) and I think she would look at this with favor,” he added.
Suggestions about giving BOC and BIR personnel higher pay to ensure they would not be tempted to engage in corrupt acts are an old proposal. In 2011, former Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon proposed the provision of higher pay for employees — like BIR and BOC — to help them fight temptations.