Thursday, August 16, 2012

MWSS cuts employees' pay in 'clean-up'

Drivers of the state-owned Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) were receiving as much as P97,000 back in 2009. Now, MWSS has began deflating allowances received by its employees, which allegedly ballooned without legal basis during the term of the previous board, its top official on Wednesday said. "We have started cleaning up the house and we have now removed benefits which had no legal basis," MWSS Chairman Ramon Alikpala told Yahoo! Southeast Asia in a phone interview. "These allowances peaked in 2009, I believe," he said, pointing to a controversy which revealed that only a quarter of the MWSS payroll were standard pay and the rest were allowances. Alikpala cited as an example drivers' salaries, which have now been cut to P36,000 a month from as high as P97,000 in 2009. "The board met in two weeks ago to decide what benefits to do away with as COA (Commission on Audit) has disallowed funds for such," Alikpala said. Included in the benefits that were cut were subsidized car loans at minimal interest rates as well as cost of living and meal allowances. "COA said the P150 meal allowance approved by the previous board had no legal basis. The last meal allowance that had legal basis was P3 so we will now continue to give that to our employees," Alikpala said. The MWSS chief also noted that the recent reductions in allowances may not be the last, as the agency's board has resolved to continue administering reform. "We are not reducing drivers' pay because it's large, we are reducing it because what we paid them before was wrong," he noted. He added: "We sympathize with these the employees affected because we know that they have already grown accustomed to the pay their have been receiving, but the system has to be corrected." Alikpala also quipped that the salary he receives is apparently lower than those given to drivers. "I had to compute my average pay in the recent months and the figure I got was around P33,000," he said. This, as he denied allegations that the members of the MWSS board continue to recieve hefty sums for meetings and hired consultants who are also paid in excess. Alikpala noted that board members are paid based on Executive Order 24 issued by the Palace, which imposes a cap of P576,000 a year as well as P15,000 per board meeting and P9,000 per committee meeting. MWSS board members are paid P14,000 per board meeting and P8,400 per committee meeting, Alikpala said. "Even if board members attend meetings which supposedly entitle them to amounts exceeding the limit, they will not receive additional pay," he said. As for consultants, Alikpala said the complaints stem from a single-tranche payment for services already rendered by experts whose contracts have been signed late. "A rule is that consultants' contract must be ratified by the board but the board resigned and so the new board was only able to sign the contract and pay the consultants months after the experts started working," he said.