Anti-graft group mulls moves vs Oro water district officials

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 June) — An anti-graft organization accredited by the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao yesterday said it was studying its options over reports the members of the board of directors of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) have been enjoying honoraria and other perks that are allegedly way above the approved limits.

In a text message Fr. Nathaniel C. Lerio, chair of the Cagayan de Oro Good Governance, Inc. (CGGI) said they are still considering their options but will support and join any mobilization that may be called.

“As of the moment, we are considering options but certainly we always go (for) what is beneficial for the general public and support any civic move to address the issue,” Lerio, also the Archdiocesan Good Governance Apostolate (AGGAp) director, said.

The CGGI has a standing memorandum of agreement with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman-Mindanao to be an accredited anti-corruption unit. CGGI works with the Ombudsman to ensure transparency and efficiency in government service.

Lerio’s statements came after reports that the members of COWD’s board of directors have been receiving honoraria and additional perks way beyond the allowed ceiling.

In its 2009 audit report the Commission on Audit (COA) said that the water facility is only allowed a maximum of P1.350 million for honoraria but it disbursed P2.5 million for this item.

COA said COWD officials received P4,500 travel allowance per day, or P3,700 more than the legal limit. They also received a year-end incentive bonus of P100,000, service incentive of P84,000, anniversary productivity bonus of P33,000, grocery allowance of P30,000 and financial assistance amounting to P20,000.

In a phone interview Thursday, Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said the alleged excessive perks should be investigated and be the first local government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) reviewed under the recently approved House Bill 4067 which promotes financial viability and fiscal discipline in GOCCs.

Rodriguez, who co-authored the bill, said a Governance Commission for GOCCs will be created under HB 4067. It shall be directly under the Office of the President and it shall set limits to per diems, allowances and bonuses of the board of directors and trustees of GOCCs.

“That should be scrutinized. They are there to be of service to the people not to earn money. This bill (HB 4067) aims to limit the perks and honorarium of board of directors of GOCCs, among others,” Rodriguez said.

In another development, Rodriguez said he is open to the call of Cooperative Development Authority (CDA 10) regional director Orlan Ravanera to discuss and possibly draft a House bill that would make water districts in the country open to privatization.

“I will study Ravanera’s proposal and then we’ll take from there,” the lawmaker said.

The COWD’s proposal to increase water rates by 30 percent, which will start in July, has revived calls to turn the water facility into a cooperative. However, the local cooperative movement itching to buy out COWD admitted that Presidential Decree 198, Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973 has been their major stumbling block to taking over the beleaguered water district.

“We feel that there is a need to review this decree and open up the possibilities for other models of ownership, control, operation and management of water facilities,” Dr. Anselmo Mercado, chair of Water Service Cooperative (Watercoop) stated in a letter to Ating Koop partylist Rep. Isidro Lico.

MindaNews obtained a copy of the letter from CDA 10. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)