Budgets for new hires usually remain unspent–Abad
There are some 67,000 government posts begging to be filled even as nearly three million Filipinos looking for work remain jobless.
The problem is not that there are no takers for these civil service jobs, but that some agencies ask for funds to pay these posts but without any plans to take in new hires, according to Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad.
The agencies submit proposed budgets for new hires without intending to fill the positions, he said.
At the end of the year, they declare these unspent funds meant for compensation as savings, which they then use as bonuses for those already in the payroll, Abad said.
Documents from the Department of Budget and Management show that 67,132 positions, or 6.3 percent, of the 1,062,021 posts in the entire national government bureaucracy, are vacant.
Of these, 14,554 posts are listed for national agencies which are created and given fiscal autonomy as provided for in the Constitution.
These include some 6,500 positions at the Commission on Audit and some 5,500 posts in the judiciary. The rest are spread among Congress, the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Elections, and Civil Service Commission.
Abad said the problem of funding for unfilled posts is mostly observed in these constitutional agencies, apart from the uniformed services.
Long tolerated practice
“Unfortunately in the past, the practice that has been tolerated is to allow agencies, year in and year out, to carry budgets for unfilled positions, which are then declared savings and distributed as bonuses to incumbent officials and employees,” he said.
“Worse, as in the recent exposes in the military and police, these so-called ‘savings’ are in some cases ‘converted’ for purposes not reported to us,” he added.
Public hearings at the Senate earlier this year revealed that budget savings in the Armed Forces were diverted to payola kitties, including send-off money for retiring military top brass.
For the uniformed services, the concerned entities asked for 2012 funds that would support 10,822 additional employees.
Of these, some 5,200 are for the Philippine National Police, some 4,600 are for the Armed Forces and the rest are for the Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
More than half, or 37,921, of total unfilled positions are for educational institutions. In this group, 31,294 are supposed to be new hires for the Department of Education, including much-needed elementary and high school teachers.
Some 5,500 posts are for state colleges and universities while the rest are scattered among the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, Philippine Science High School, Philippine Military Academy, Philippine Public Safety College, and National Defense College of the Philippines.
Tricky hiring process
Asked how and why getting teachers on board could be a problem, Abad said the DepEd’s hiring process can be quite tricky.
“The hiring of teachers goes through the Civil Service Commission and the Professional Regulation Commission, and then through the congressman, through the governor and other politicians,” said Abad, a former lawmaker as well as education secretary.
“That’s why the DepEd admittedly finds it hard to hire, especially for functions that are involved in the election process,” he said.
“They say this process should be insulated from politics, but that’s very hard to do,” he said.
According to Abad, these impediments to hiring government employees have not only undermined their efficiency and capacity to deliver public services but have also circumvented the authority that Congress has given.
Why the MBPF
He said this was why Malacañang was segregating the funds for these unfilled positions under a budget item called miscellaneous personnel benefits fund, or MPBF, for better transparency and accountability.
However, this has placed Malacañang in direct confrontation with the Supreme Court, which oversees the judiciary, which balked at losing control of over P2 billion in its 2012 budget that would go to the MBPF.
The high court justices said the move was unconstitutional as it violated the judiciary’s fiscal autonomy. Court employees threatened to take their objections to the streets if the government did not heed their call.
“We do recognize that (constitutional and fiscally autonomous) agencies have other priority spending requirements, other than for personnel,” Abad said.
“But in the end, what is primordial is that the use of public funds for their intended purposes, as authorized by Congress, is faithfully observed,” he said.
According to Abad, Malacañang has in fact proposed a P23.4-billion budget in 2012 for the unfilled government positions.
In addition, the proposed 2012 national budget includes P54.6 billion for pay hikes provided for in the Salary Standardization Law as well as P23.5 billion to cover the benefits of state employees, including those for the newly hired, he said.
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