Centralized gov’t payroll exorcises ‘ghosts’
MALACAÑANG has called in the ghostbusters to rid the government books of fund-sucking phantom personnel and spectral spending, a move that could well result in “billions of pesos in savings,” according to Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad.
According to Abad, one of the ways the ghosts can be busted is by cutting short the money trail when making salary payments, mainly through a centralized payroll system for the national government.
“By the end of next year, employees of the executive branch, including policemen and soldiers, will receive their salaries in their bank accounts directly from the Treasury,” he told reporters and editors at dinner at the Inquirer on Thursday night.
The budget chief said this will address fund leakage problems related to compensation, including the nonremittance of premiums to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the state-run pension fund for government workers.
According to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data, the national government has almost a million employees.
“Before this and for the longest time, the DBM had no record of how many employees we are paying,” said Abad.
AFP, PNP cooperating
Abad said the government was finally able to make the shift in the way state salaries are paid out largely because it was finally able to get the cooperation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The biggest chunk of the government’s workforce is in the Department of Education (DepEd) at about 579,000, but data on DepEd is relatively easy to get hold of compared to that of the uniformed services, said Abad.
There are currently 146,000 people working for the PNP and 125,000 for the AFP.
According to Abad, the PNP and the AFP had previously “refused to provide us data so we could not put up a government manpower inventory system that we badly need.”
“Because of that, salaries come through each agency, but we want to change that,” he said.
Instead of the current system, the DBM will just authorize the release of salary funds and the agencies will only have to prepare the payroll, he said.
“We will work with the Civil Service Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue and GSIS to come up with a single roster of employees. That way we can check if the numbers add up,” Abad said.
“We can save potentially billions of pesos and put an end to ghost employees,” the budget secretary said.
He said the government will also be pilot-testing a cashless procurement system where the AFP will use debit cards when purchasing supplies.
The debit cards, which may be issued to a responsible officer, will come with a set list of authorized items for purchase aside from the authorized amount of credit.
“We will do this with the AFP and the Commission on Audit,” Abad said.
He said this will address the long-tolerated practice of “converting” the use of funds, which thrives in the current system where expenses are covered by cash advances.
“With that system that covered 46 percent of military spending, we don’t know where the money comes from and where it goes,” Abad said.
Gov’t supply depots
“This time, we will be using government-run supply depots,” he said.
This has been made possible with Administrative Order No. 17 issued last July, which directs the use of the government procurement service and electronic procurement system.
Abad said the DepEd is already using the depots which are scattered in the regions to buy teaching supplies.
The Army also now buys soldier’s boots from such depots, he said.
“With this system, there is no need for bidding because you are purchasing from the government itself at prices that are 39 percent less (than from private-sector suppliers),” he said.
“More importantly, government officials’ need to hold money will be less and less,” he added.