EDITORIAL - These junkets we call workshops and seminars
(The Freeman) - September 22, 2016 - 12:00am

Finally, somebody has seen an anomaly for what it is and has decided to put a stop to it. Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña has forbidden employees and officials of the city government from holding seminars and other related activities outside the city. The only exception is when these gatherings are being organized by entities other than City Hall.

The main objective of Osmeña is to save on expenses for the city. He has a point. Many, if not most, of these seminars and workshops are nothing more than junkets held at expensive venues at great cost to taxpayers, often for no other reason than for city employees and officials to experience these places, and have fond memories captured in photos for posting on social media.

The problem is not unique to Cebu City although Osmeña may probably be the first official to have taken action on the matter. It is no secret that seminars and workshops have become the single biggest excuse for government employees to visit some of the best places to visit in the Philippines. And the best part of it is that it is not illegal.

There is always a budget in every local government unit, bureau, agency or organization for the holding of "professional and career development" activities, as what these seminars and workshops are often called. In other words these activities are a part of an employee's or official's means of advancement, that is if they are taken to heart and put to good use.

But as these activities are just an excuse to visit places and to use up the budget that otherwise would revert to the public coffers if unused or unutilized, the practice keeps getting perpetuated. Yet, for all the hundreds of seminars and workshops held every year for the advancement of skills, nothing of the sort is ever reflected in the form of better public service.

If things have been inefficient before a seminar, they will be inefficient still after the seminar. The only thing that changes is the fact that now a group of barangay councilmen from some obscure town somewhere has finally gotten a chance to visit, say, Boracay at the expense of the Filipino people, many of whom probably have never been to Boracay themselves.

Sorry Mayor Osmeña, but the expense would have been the least of the taxpayers' worries if the results of these seminars and workshops are put to good use. But nothing of the sort ever happens, no matter how significant and substantial may have been the seminars, if the participants are not into them in heart and in mind. If these activities remain the junkets that they are, then it is indeed good to do something about them, as Osmeña has done.

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