It indeed is a happy New Year for government workers, including City Hall employees, who went on a Yuletide break with no assurance if they will receive an incentive for being “productive” amidst the pandemic.
Thanks to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Administrative Order 45, Baguio’s Local Finance Committee (LFC) now has a legal basis to grant the Covid-19 productivity incentive to city government workers, a proposal approved by the councilors during their special and final session as government offices were winding up operations on Dec. 24, 2021.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, main proponent of the ordinance that was co-authored by the other members, emphasized the grant of the productivity incentive was subject to fund availability and a legal basis.
The condition was set in consideration of the remarks of City Budget Officer Leticia Clemente the city needs a basis before it could grant the productivity incentive.
At the time, Clemente said if ever there is an issuance from Malacañang, the LFC could not ascertain the amount to be given since the books of accounts were not yet closed and it was not known how much savings the city would have.
City Accountant Antonio Tabin said the only possible source of fund for the productivity incentive would be the Personal Savings, which might not be sufficient to cover all city hall employees.
Duterte’s AO 45 provided that for local government units, the incentive, called Service Recognition Incentive, should not exceed P10,000. It added if the founding source is not enough, LGUs may grant a lower, but uniform rate to all qualified employees.
In last year’s special session, Tabanda asked the LFC members if it was possible to charge the productivity incentive against the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) fund, considering that the intent is to recognize the services of city hall employees in the midst of the pandemic.
“Isn’t it possible to charge it against the DRRM fund since the incentive (is meant to recognize) the employees for being productive? We have received awards despite the pandemic, which means that despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, the employees have been exerting efforts to carry out their functions,” Tabanda said.
Tabin said the 70 percent under the DRRM fund has already been allocated and only P8 million of the 30 percent quick response fund is available.
“We still don’t know how much balance we will have (under the QRF) because we are still under collection. Nevertheless, we will consider your suggestion and review if it is possible to charge the productivity incentive against the DRRM fund,” Tabin said.
Clemente said the LFC is cautious in granting incentives to avoid a possible disallowance from the Commission on Audit.
“We want to provide the productivity incentive. We all want that, provided we have a legal basis because we do not want a disallowance from COA,” she said.
She said the past incentives provided by the city government that were disallowed by COA have caused the suspension of three resident auditors of Baguio.
“And even up to this time, there are benefits that were withheld from employees who have retired because of the disallowance by COA,” she said.
Tabin shared this, saying there are two more disallowed incentives provided by the city government in the previous years that are “pending appeal.”
City Hall employees are also set to receive this month their P25,000 incentive under the collective negotiation agreement (CNA), the equivalent of the collective bargaining agreement in the private sector.
According to the Department of Budget Management, CNA incentives may be granted to management and rank-and-file employees of LGUs in recognition of their efforts to meet performance targets at lesser cost, in attaining more efficient and viable operations through cost-cutting measures and systems improvement.