Heads to keep rolling in finance dept

The Department of Finance (DOF) started investigating a total of 104 cases against suspected erring officials and employees under its jurisdiction in 2017, with several of them either dismissed or suspended, while others are now undergoing lifestyle checks. 

The DOF's Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) under Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said it has also started exploring the possibility of filing tax evasion cases against those suspected of amassing unexplained wealth on top of taking them to court forfeiture proceedings. 

“We are coordinating with the BIR because we need the income tax returns of these personnel. There are some privacy issues with respect to that so we have to be very careful. But I think we can gather enough evidence to make a case for tax evasion, especially if their tax returns will not show that they declared certain income but they were able to acquire properties beyond what they declared as income,” Agabin said. 

According to RIPS Executive Director Gilberto Espinosa, the DOF is now eyeing the filing in early 2018 of an initial two tax evasion cases against employees suspected of amassing unexplained assets. 

In the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), executive director Nino Alvina also initiated the probe of suspected erring municipal and city treasurers, in step   with the directive of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to swiftly take punitive action against local officers under its supervision in line with President Duterte’s commitment to public accountability and transparency in government under his administration. 

From January to September 2017, twenty (20) decisions were promulgated by the Office of the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission finding several employees and officials of the Bureaus of Customs (BOC) and of Internal Revenue (BIR) guilty of Grave Misconduct and Serious Dishonesty and finding anomalies regarding the accomplishment and filing of their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) reports, Espinosa said. 

These involved separate orders of the Ombudsman dismissing five (5) government employees—two from the BIR and three from the BOC--and  directives suspending for periods ranging from one month to one year, nine (9) BOC employees, two (2) BIR employees, one (1) City Treasurer; and one  (1) Supervising Tax Specialist. One (1) Chief Revenue Officer of the BIR was meted the penalty of Reprimand. Finally an Administrative Aide of the BOC was sternly warned that a subsequent failure to declare material facts in the PDS shall be dealt with more severely.

During the same period up to November, the RIPS secured two more favorable CSC resolutions, which led to the suspension for six months of a Revenue District Officer in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro for his failure to: 1) file his 2001 SALN, 2) disclose real properties and other assets, and 3) secure travel authority for several trips overseas. Another employee, a security guard at the BOC assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was suspended for three months without pay for failing to file his 2014 SALN and not disclosing his business interests and financial ties. 

Espinosa said the RIPS also won two convictions in the regular trial courts as a result of the separate guilty pleas of two Customs Operations Officers. 

In the first case, a Customs Operations Officer III was convicted of six counts of violation of Sec. 8 in relation to Sec. 11 of Republic Act 6713 or Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; He failed to declare a house and lot in Bataan and some personal properties, and falsely declared the acquisition cost of a motor vehicle and the amount of a housing loan. He also failed to secure the necessary travel authority for his five travels abroad. 

The other BOC officer, meanwhile, was convicted of fifteen (15) counts of perjury. He failed to declare real properties, liabilities, and seven (7) firearms in his SALNs. He also made a material discrepancy in his SALN by disclosing the fair market value of his real property instead of its acquisition cost as required by law. He also did not obtain the necessary travel authority for a trip to Hong Kong in December 2011.

Besides employees of the DOF and its attached agencies, the Ombudsman also dismissed from the service for grave misconduct a municipal treasurer from Guimbal, Iloilo for her involvement in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam. 

Dominguez also ordered the temporary suspension of three other officials and employees under DOF supervision based on separate orders by the Ombudsman and the CSC.