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Sunday, March 18, 2012

CSC shelves revised SALN forms pending review

By: Caroline Howard, ANC

MANILA, Philippines (19 March 2012) - The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has temporarily shelved the implementation of the revised forms for the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), pending a review of the SALN guidelines by the technical working group and following pressures from Congress and various groups.

Labor group COURAGE says the new form would unnecessarily open government employees and officials to harassment, as they could be made criminally liable for committing honest mistakes in answering the complicated SALN.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez wants government to revert to the old form. "This is not even required by law because the law they based this on was already amended," he says

CSC Chair Secretary Francisco Duque says revisions on the SALN form are being done in a bid to promote greater transparency among public officials and employees.

"The value of the SALN form is coupled with a lifestyle check. It's impossible for the CSC to look at 1.4 million SALNs. What's going to happen is, if there's an investigation, they'll look at this as evidence and can be used with the conduct of a lifestyle check," Duque said in an interview of Mornings@ANC.

Four new features in the revised SALN include:
  • the declaration of all of the filer's income and sources of income;
  • the declaration of estimates of personal and family expenses;
  • income taxes paid; and
  • the declaration of the spouse's properties and those of their unmarried children 18-years old and below.

Duque says expenses would shed light on the lifestyle of public employee and whether he or she is spending more than what he earns

Duque says the revised SALNs also require the filer to declare the fair market value and the acquisition cost of properties, as well as his business interests and financial connections.

"This is to establish the possible conflict of interest. If you put it there and your job is regulating a certain industry and you are a shareholder of an industry under your control, there is obviously conflict of interest," he says

"Fair market value is a way of tracking how much the property has appreciated or depreciated over time... in the computation of your net worth you have to use your acquisition cost," he adds.

No more SALN correction?

Duque says they plan to correct a current provision allowing for the correction of a filed SALN.

"That's another thing we need to work on, the renewed compliance procedure committee which has not been established by every agency of government.  We're going to enforce that.  It hasn't been enforced since 1994," he says

Duque says they understand the public's reservations about the new form, but assures the public they will review laws pertaining to the filing of SALNs and the revised SALN forms.  He adds, they plan to also expand the membership of the technical working group to include more public sector representatives.

Duque says, with the help of additional feedback, they hope to simplify the guidelines governing the new SALN forms... and make it `filer-friendly'.

"The Commission is open to reviewing, once and for all, looking at the pertinent flaws with the objective of making it filer-friendly," he says

Both houses of Congress will have to establish a clear review compliance committee and the executive department with the approval of the Justice Secretary to set up a committee; and for the judiciary, it is the Supreme Court chief justice who will have to constitute and approve a review and compliance committee.

The review and compliance committee is in charge of checking the proper forms, their completeness and deadlines in meeting the filing of SALNs.

Duque appeals to the public's understanding and cooperation on the SALN. He also assured full compliance for those who use the old SALN forms in meeting the April 30 deadline for filing SALNs.

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