Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Excess gov’t execs cost taxpayers P58 M a year

Excess gov’t execs cost taxpayers P58 M a year
Written by Jesus Llanto
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Office of the President has the most number of excess—unqualified—undersecretaries and assistant secretaries

The government could save as much as P58 million a year if it would remove all the redundant executives from the bureaucracy, a study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) showed.

The 2008/2009 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR), which was launched Wednesday in Quezon City, counted as many as 81 unneeded undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, most of them with the Office of the President.

More than half of these excess executives are unqualified for their positions, the study said.

The PHDR, called “Institution, Politics and Human Development,” said that aside from excess officials, the following factors have also undermined the quality of the bureaucracy at all levels in recent years: appointments made for political accommodation, an outdated compensation scheme, and the surge in the number of ad-hoc bodies, presidential consultants, and advisers.

The study noted that while only 131 undersecretaries and assistant secretaries are prescribed by law, the government had 222 incumbent employees occupying these positions as of December 2007. The figure represents an excess of 62 percent.

“If each draws an average of P722, 000 a year in salaries, allowances, and discretionary funds, then theses excess cost government an extra P58 million a year,” the study said.

The report also noted that more than half (56 percent) of these 222 department executives were “technically ineligible” to occupy their positions.

The Office of the President, the PHDR said, had the most number of excess undersecretaries and assistant secretaries at 31. Eighty-nine percent of them were ineligible for the position.

The study also said that the number of ad-hoc bodies and presidential advisers and consultants significantly increased in recent years.

“After peaking in 2002 at 175, there was a sharp decline in 2003 to 74 [ad-hoc bodies], attributed to the work of the Presidential Commision on Effective Governance (PCEG),” the study said. After the abolition of the PCEG in 2004, the number of ad-hoc bodies increased again and reached 85 in 2007.

The significant increase in the number of consultants and advisers, meanwhile, started in 2002. Under the Ramos administration, the number of presidential consultants declined from 33 in 1994 to 27 in 1998. It reached 34 under the Estrada administration, but declined sharply to 15 during the early years of the Arroyo administration.

“The number of presidential consultants/ advisers has risen significantly since 2002, reaching an all-time high of 49 in 2008,” the study noted.

The study also warned against the creation of additional positions of presidential consultants and advisers. “Presidential consultants and advisers enjoy the title and authority, without accountability.”

Toby Melissa Monsod, one of the authors of the PHDR, said these appointments cause demoralization and destruction of initiative in the regular civil service.

“The practice of appointing non-career and non-eligible people into formal plantilla positions undermines the constitutional notion of ‘merit and fitness,’” Monsod said. She pointed out that about 10,000 positions are subject to presidential prerogative, which allows politicians to intervene in appointment process.
‘Perverse Incentives’

The study also identified the outdated compensation scheme as a factor in weakening the quality of government personnel. Paying low salaries, the government fails to retain its competent workers.

The government is the country’s biggest direct employer with 1.4 million workers.

“Perverse incentives in the civil service have weakened the quality of the bureaucracy at all levels in recent years,” the study said, adding that the compensation package for government employees pale in comparison with their peers in the private sectors.

“Salaries can be as much as 74 percent below comparative jobs in the private sector,” the study said, quoting a 2006 study by the Civil Service Commission.

“Most affected are directors, district engineers, school superintendents, college professors, prosecutors, state auditors, assistant secretaries, undersecretaries...people responsible for policy design, higher-level technical services, and the day-today management of the government,” the study said.

Other government positions suffering from low salaries are division chiefs, public lawyers, school principals, public health nurses, social workers, teachers, election officers, customs examiners, engineers, agriculturists, and those who are directly involved in the implementation of public programs.

The study said that there is a need to pass a law that would provide a new government classification and compensation scheme to restore professionalism and meritocracy in the bureaucracy.

Proposals for new salary standardization laws are pending in Congress. The proposed legislations seek to increase the salaries of government personnel and remove overlaps in salaries between positions, which resulted in instances where some subordinates receive higher salaries than their supervisors. (Newsbreak)

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