Reform moves in the BIR
In an effort to improve the performance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III is considering the idea of giving BIR employees a five-fold increase in salaries on condition that they waive their right to security of tenure.
His plan will require the exemption of BIR personnel from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL), a benefit that is already being enjoyed by the professional staff of the Insurance Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As conceived, the salary upgrade will enable the BIR to attract competent people to its fold and stem the outflow of its professional and technical staff to the private sector.
And most importantly, it will address the problem of corruption within its ranks. In a briefing paper, the BIR said, “If wages are too low for revenuers to support themselves and their dependents, the more likely they are to engage in corrupt behavior.”
The argument goes that if a government employee is properly compensated, he will be less inclined to engage in corrupt activities to augment his income and will be efficient in the performance of his duties and responsibilities.
There is an unwritten element, though, behind this thinking: It assumes that the employee will be happy to live a life that corresponds to the purchasing power of his pay envelope, and that he will not be envious of other people who have more lucrative sources of income.
In other words, he has the kind of moral fiber that can resist the temptation to look the other way or engage in unauthorized transactions in exchange for monetary or material payoffs.
A five-fold salary increase may be sufficient disincentive for BIR personnel to engage in corrupt activities.
It is reasonable to assume that, under normal circumstances, they would want to bring home cleanly-earned money to meet the financial requirements of their families.
But there is no need to require them to waive their right to security of tenure in consideration for an upward adjustment in their salaries.
Bear in mind that no government employee has a Torrens Title to his position. He can be dismissed from the service if he is found guilty, for example, of gross misconduct or commission of acts inimical to the best interests of the service.
The right to security of tenure applies only to government employees who have not committed any act prohibited by our civil service laws or neglected to do their assigned tasks, and therefore deserving of continued stay in the service.
The rules on discipline are clearly spelled out in the civil service regulations. In case a BIR employee is suspected to have engaged in corrupt activities, the appropriate disciplinary action can be taken against him with the proper BIR forum.
If timely and efficiently wielded, the rules on discipline constitute sufficient deterrence for the commission of corrupt activities within the ranks of the BIR.
But the problem is, these rules have not, for various reasons, most of which are political in nature, been strictly implemented to rid the BIR of personnel who look at their low pay as justifiable cause to engage in corrupt activities to fatten their wallets.
A “carrot” approach—increase in salaries—alone will not solve the corruption problem in the BIR. It has to be accompanied by a “stick” or a determination to take swift disciplinary action if the recipient of the carrot goes astray in the performance of his duties and responsibilities.
The carrot-and-stick method has proven its worth in Singapore. The professional employees of its Internal Revenue Authority receive salaries that are almost on a par with their counterpart in the private sector.
With that kind of compensation, there is little incentive to engage in unlawful means to augment their income. But if they do, the dismissal axe is quickly wielded and, where proper, the erring employee serves a prison term too.
By all means, give the BIR personnel a five-fold salary increase without waiving their right to security of tenure, but just make sure the disciplinary rules are quickly and efficiently applied in case any of them engage in corrupt activities after getting a generous salary adjustment.
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