ILOILO CITY - The anti-privatization group Freedom from Debt Coalition is pointing at the people behind the management of Metro Iloilo Water District as responsible for the millions of pesos squandered from the "treasure chest" of the water utility.

The group divulged that the management of MIWD has sucked its coffers dry by releasing funds for its own people's benefits amounting to a whooping P5,388, 344.00 despite "lacking legal basis" as per the observation of the Commission on Audit's Corporate Government Sector, which undertook the audit of the water utility's finances for year 2002.

For instance, in the item number eight (8) of the COA report, it stated that its "examination of Account 824 - Employees Pension and Benefits, disclosed that officials/employees and consultants/retainers of the district were granted Performance Bonus of 2.5-months per person or a total of P4,296,357.75 and Grocery Allowance totaling P442,000.00, without legal basis," said FDC

According to the group, "this was cited by the report despite MIWD management's claim that the granting of allowances was based on the letters dated November 8, 2000 and April 27, 2001, respectively, issued by Benjamin Diokno and Emilia Boncodin, then Secretaries of the Department of Budget and Management, authorizing water districts to continue the grant of allowances mentioned above."

Likewise, it was found out that the granting of benefits to its board of directors was violative of the provisions on Compensation under Section 13 of Presidential Decree 198.

The Section states that "each director shall receive a per diem, to be determined by the board, for each meeting actually attended by him, but no director shall receive per diems in any given month in excess of the equivalent of the total per diems of four meetings in any given month. No director shall receive other compensation for services to the district."

However, on its verification of Account 838 on Directors Fee and Remuneration, the COA discovered that for the period January to September 2002, the board of directors were granted per diems, representation and transportation allowances, extraordinary and miscellaneous expense allowance, rice allowance, uniform allowance, medical allowance and 1.25 months performance bonus totaling to P545,585.00.

It was also disclosed in the same Account 838 that the Corporate Secretary and the Retainer Counsel were paid other benefits aside from those included above amounting to P86, 686.25 and P14,715.00, respectively.

The report argued that "as provided by Sec. 13 of P.D. 198, 'members of the board of the water districts are not authorized to receive other compensation for services to the district.' In like manner, the Corporate Secretary, considered member of the board, is not authorized to receive such allowances, as he is not an organic personnel of the district."

"A close scrutiny of the financial status of MIWD seems to reveal the real intention behind the privatization move of Mayor Jerry Treñas and that is to cover-up the water utility's liquidity problem brought about by its management's plunder of its coffers," averred FDC.

"What the COA report illustrates is that the VIP's of MIWD are parting the spoils among themselves. We doubt that our City Officials are ignorant or unaware of this. This is only one of the many reasons why we oppose the privatization of MIWD." concluded FDC. ###

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