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MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is having a tough time attracting honest talent to fill its vacant positions, and senators are worried that the low salaries for tax-collecting officers could lead them towards corruption.
“Our main problem is the difficultly in recruiting personnel considering the low salary that the BIR has compared with other government agencies for our lawyers and our accountants,” BIR Commissioner Romeo “Jun” Lumagui Jr. told senators on Monday, October 2.
Lumagui said that the salary of BIR lawyers was “not very competitive” when compared to positions in other agencies like the Public Attorneys Office or Civil Service Commission (CSC). The entry level salary for lawyers in the BIR is just P27,000 per month, while the CSC offers up to P51,000.
The BIR commissioner lamented that many BIR employees have either been resigning or transferring to “other government agencies that give higher salaries.”
This has led to thousands of unfilled positions that could hamper the effectiveness of the tax collection agency. According to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the BIR has 7,724 unfilled plantilla positions, with many vacancies for posts in the provinces.
“If you have very low salaries for our lawyers, our collectors, our accountants who are doing audit, then the offshoot of that is temptation to corruption,” Gatchalian said during the Senate briefing on the Department of Finance budget.
“This is an enforcement group, and we need to also have a high-level – or at least industry level – package so that we can ward off temptation, we can attract the best talent, and also improve credibility and integrity within the office,” he said.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara also expressed concern over the low salaries of what he called “very sensitive positions” that for a long time have been “linked to graft and corruption.”
Asked about his stance on requesting for a salary hike for positions in the BIR, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno supported the move.
“I think there’s a justification for not only salary adjustment, but maybe reclassification of the ‘collector’ item,” Diokno said. “It’s important because there’s no comparable position in other government agencies.”
Diokno, who has served as budget secretary in the past, suggested that the BIR write to the Department of Budget and Management with a request to reclassify some positions and raise their salaries.
“Mag-rerequest lang po sila kay Secretary [Amenah Pangandaman], and she would look at this with favor,” he said. – Rappler.com