• Workers seek House probe of MWSS anomalies

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    Employees of the Metropolitan Water works and Sewerage System (MWSS) have asked Congress to investigate the anomalous and irregular practices of MWSS administrator Gerardo Esquivel, ranging from the illegal hiring of consultants to a putative P2-billion income of the agency in 2012.

    ”A Congressional inquiry will help our plight. These anomalous practices of our administrator have to stop,” MWSS Labor Association (MLA) President Rene Zapiter said.

    “More importantly, some form of legislation must be pushed to ensure that our administrator, and future leaders of the MWSS, will not be able to use loopholes in existing laws and provisions to justify irregular acts,” Zapiter added.

    The MLA has already filed several complaints for graft and corrupt practices against Esqui-vel, including a case over the illegal hiring of 36 consultants and 162 job order personnel before the Ombudsman.

    The Ombudsman has already subpoenaed Esquivel and other MWSS board members, but the latter have asked for more time to prepare for the cases.

    The Commission on Audit (COA) has backed up the claims of the MWSS employees, saying the hiring of additional consultants from 2011 to 2012 were “deficient and irregular.”

    The CoA Audit Observation Memorandum noted that the hiring binge violated an existing moratorium and was done without public bidding.

    The state auditors also found that some of the consultants hired were ”redundant” as there were available MWSS personnel who can perform the same duties.

    Prior to the release of the CoA report, Esquivel even bragged that the consultants he hired were “high-caliber, well-educated and deserving of their fees.”

    Zapiter said lawmakers should also probe the P2-billion “paper gain” of the agency which Esquivel used to reward board members with excessive bonuses ranging from P300,000 to P500,000.

    ”Our administrator has fooled the public with claims of a P2-billion net income for 2012. But in truth that is just a ghost profit,” MLA Vice President Napoleon Quinones said.

    Quinones said more than 70 percent of the alleged net income came from the appreciation of the peso against the dollar.

    ”It was all paper gain because of the foreign exchange. They just made it appear that we earned P2 billion so they have something to boast of and justify the excessive performance bonuses of the four board members,” he said.

    “If you remove the paper gain, the net income should only be P588 million. But they needed to bloat the figure because they were giving themselves those ridiculously high perks,” Quinones added.

    Based on the consolidated statement of profit and loss of the MWSS, forex gains surged to P1.357 billion last year.

    Most of the agency’s other income also came from sources that were non-operating in nature, such as passive income on deposits and progress billings from contractors and concessionaires.

    ”We are hoping Congress would hear our plight even as we continue to pursue the graft cases we have filed before the Ombudsman,” Zapiter said.

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