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Party-list solon questions MWSS 'overspending'

MANILA, Philippines - A party-list lawmaker today said that the Metropolitan Manila Sewerage System (MWSS) is still spending more than its allowed budget, based on a report by the Commission on Audit (COA).

CIBAC party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna said that based on a report by COA, the MWSS overspent on its approved budget for 2010 by a whopping P234.706 million.

Tugna said that according to the COA report, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved P142.969 million and P100.245 million for the agency’s central and regional offices, but actual expenses amounted to P310.531 million and P167.389 million respectively.

The lawmaker said that the supposed overspending of the government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) is a "wanted disregard" of President Benigno Aquino III's policy on fiscal prudence.

"The MWSS, by reneging on its approved budget for 2010, sends a message to the public that it can do as it pleases with their money," he said.

Tugna said that according to the DBM, the excess comes from payment of benefits and allowances which it rejected in the MWSS' approved corporate operating budget (COB) for lack of legal basis. He noted that this has been the DBM's annual contention with MWSS.

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"Government agencies need to be reminded that we are in difficult times and as such, it is but proper to adopt belt-tightening measures, spending only on necessary and legitimate endeavors. We have to be reminded that while others are splurging on luxuries, millions of our brothers and sisters struggle every day to have a modicum of food on the table," he said.

He said that the supposed overspending will further cast doubt on the MWSS especially with its recent approval of increase in water charges by concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water.

"Government agencies are empowered to serve the people. Therefore, they need to perform according to expectations and be conscious of everything they do. Losing people's respect is akin to losing their legal mandate as servants of the people," he said.

Last June, President Aquino signed into law the bill standardizing the salaries and bonuses of executives in GOCCs.

The GOCC Governance Act of 2011 was pushed by Sen. Franklin Drilon, an ally of Aquino in the Liberal Party.

The GOCC law was crafted by lawmakers due to controversies on the excessive allowances of officials of GOCCs, including MWSS.

Before the signing of the GOCC law, Aquino issued Executive Order 24 to standardize the pay and other benefits received by board members and trustees of GOCCs and government financial institutions (GFIs). The order was intended to limit the excessive pay and bonuses for board members and trustees of GOCCs and GFIs until a law mandating such is passed.

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