Saturday, February 16, 2008

State pension fund officials fatten pockets

Over the decades, state pension funds running to billions of pesos have been amassed through regular premium deductions taken from the monthly salaries of the millions of lowly public servants. It is an established government policy that eventually capitalized on the hard earnings of civil servants, most of whom are still hankering to live comfortably into retirement. Others who could not stay longer in service may just have to quit and look for other good opportunities somewhere else, while some of them are still strong to engage in another well-paying drudgery.

While millions of civil servants in the local and national government offices labor hard to make a living, employees and officials of the government's two pension fund agencies wallow in convenience and comfort by receiving more that what ordinary public servants get on their monthly salaries, minus deductions. Of these two agencies, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is the only semi-government organization that doesn't follow the standardization of salaries and wages for its employees. As a result, most of its officials and employees are allowed to receive salaries and fat allowances that are much higher than what the national civil servants get.

All these GSIS employees do is to take care of the monthly contributions of the millions of other public servants and invest a big portion of the accumulated funds in securities in the hope of earning good dividends in the future.

What is difficult to understand here is that the pension fund agency has created its own charter whereby salaries of its officials and employees are to be determined by the board. Isn't it unfair that millions of national and local government employees are drawing salaries that are not even enough to make both ends meet, yet the GSIS continues to enjoy the funds at the expense of the hapless government employees.

Until now, there is not a single legislator who has thought of initiating a resolution that will eventually reduce some of the fringe benefits that GSIS employees get. What is worse is that many GSIS members have complained that whenever they apply for a loan, it takes a couple of days, if not weeks, before their application is released. Does it mean that the GSIS is running out of cash? Where did the GSIS put its funds, if only to ignore its obligations to bonafide members? This is a million peso question that needs to be explained by the GSIS management.

Now, there are reports that the pension fund agency is being used as a milking cow by unscrupulous government officials during elections. Members have suspected that the current boss of the GSIS is a protege of the present administration so that it is not remote from possibility that the funds are being diverted for something else other than their official purpose.

Many members are puzzled as to why those who have not even filed their loan applications ended up with obligations with the GSIS. This means that there are insiders who are in cahoots with ghosts loan applicants at the expense of the active members paying for what they have not applied for. For many years, this type of mystery has not been properly addressed. And I doubt if this kind of corruption inside will ever be corrected.

What is happening is that the millions of active members are being fried on their own oil. The same is true with the sad experience of lowly military personnel whose contributions to the RSBS in Camp Aguinaldo are being mishandled by the very officials who run the RSBS funds. Perhaps, this is the appropriate time for millions of local and government employees to lump their acts together and initiate a move that will free them from the long bondage to the GSIS by creating an independent pension fund agency that is not run by vultures and hyenas.

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