MANILA, Philippines - Senator Sonny Angara expressed support for the Bureau of Internal Revenue's bid to be exempted from the Salary Standardization law (SSL).
"If better pay would allow it to hire the best and reward the honest, then why not? But there should be performance benchmarks attached to any increase... The bottom line here is to give incentives based on merit. So it can be outside or within the SSL framework. But once it is given, the recipient should live by the rule that to those much is given, much will be required," the chairman of the Senate ways and means committee said.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had earlier proposed exempting the BIR from the SSL, which sets salary caps in the bureaucracy. He cited the example of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which was exempted from the SSL and able "to professionalize its ranks when freed from the rigid salary structure of the law."
However, Angara proposed an accountability mechanism, such as a tax advocate office, against corrupt and abusive BIR officials.
He also urged the BIR to strictly implement Republic Act 9335 or the Lateral Attrition Law which provides for a system of reward and punishment for BIR officials and employees depending on their performance.
Under the law, officials and personnel of government collection agencies may receive financial incentives for surpassing collection targets but may be relieved or dismissed from their post for failing to meet the goals.
"It can be a set of special incentives that is tied to meeting quotas or a law exempting it from the SSL... The BIR's bid should be taken within the context of reviewing the whole SSL structure," Angara said.
Angara noted it is time to review the SSL, saying there may be a need for a new SSL for government workers. Since 1989, three Salary Standardization Laws have been passed. The first one was passed in August 1989.
"If we raise the taxman's pay, we must also raise the salary of taxpayers in the public sector, meaning the teachers, policemen and others," he said.
The senator also mulled giving BIR authority to convert its annual P1 billion savings from its personal services budget to additional pay to its deserving employees.
"The BIR has authorized 'permanent positions' for 13,578 workers but only about 10,071 are filled. So instead of spending P3.74 billion for salaries, it only spends about P2.78 billion. Perhaps we can use the difference in augmenting pay," he said.