Who refused ATM payroll in Makati? Not the Binays
MANILA, Philippines – Makati, home to the country's premier business district and ruled for decades by the family of Vice President Jejomar Binay, was recently criticized by the budget department for supposedly refusing to automate the payroll system of the city government.
Acting mayor, Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr, ally of the ruling national party, insinuated that ghost employees could be benefitting from the current system of handing salaries in good, old-style cash envelopes. He committed to fully automate the payroll system in the city hall by the end of 2015.
Indeed, for a city government that employs 8,000, why has Makati not modernized the way it pays its employees? Only half of them – the regular employees receive their salaries through ATMs.
According to employees and documents from the Makati city hall, two things may be blamed:
- the inefficiency of ATMs when they were first introduced in the country
- the inconvenience city hall employees experienced because of this
Councilor Marie Alethea Casal-Uy criticized Peña for “deliberately [giving] the false impression that no action has been taken by the Binay administration to modernize the payroll system for employees of the city government.”
Peña, elected vice mayor, has been acting mayor for a few weeks since Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay was preventively suspended by the Ombudsman over a graft complaint.
Uy said members of the Binay family who served as Makati mayor – Vice President Jejomar Binay, his wife Dr Elenita Binay, and their son Junjun – all made attempts to automate the payroll system during their terms.
“With the availability of more ATMs (automated teller machines) and improved accessibility for clients today, the implementation of the automated payroll system at this time was considered as timely and viable by Mayor Binay,” Uy said in a statement.
VP Binay served as mayor for 21 years from 1986 to 2010. In between, Dr Binay became mayor from 1998 to 2001. Their son Junjun is the current mayor after winning both the 2010 and 2013 elections, but he is facing a 6-month preventive suspension order from the Ombudsman. (READ: Junjun Binay steps down from Makati city hall)
Causes of delay
The question is, if the automation process began way before Peña became acting mayor, why is it taking years to be completed?
Twenty-four-hour ATMs first came to the Philippines in the 1980s. On March 21, 1997, City Resolution No 97-076 authorized then-Mayor Jejomar Binay to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine National Bank to open an ATM account to service the payroll of city hall personnel.
This was implemented during his wife’s term the following year, but it faced several problems, especially because it also took years for banks in the country to streamline their services.
“Iilan-ilan lang din 'yung mga ATM machine dati. Hirap na hirap na mag-withdraw 'yung mga empleyado. Nakakain lagi 'yung mga card,” recalled Flor Silva, who has been working for Makati’s Accounting Department since 1987.
(There used to be very few ATMs before. Employees had a difficult time withdrawing their salaries. The machine would often eat their cards.)
Employees not only complained about the faulty machines and the long lines they had to endure. Silva said many of them wanted to get even the last centavo of their salaries, something an ATM will not allow a cardholder to do.
“Mga ilang buwan lang ata [ginamit ang ATM sa payroll]. Kaya magmula noon, manual kami.” (Using ATMs for the payroll only lasted for a few months. Since then, we used the manual way.)
However, Makati’s Financial Reporting Division head William Dayrit clarified that the Makati city government still took several steps over the next years to automate the system.
“Tinitingnan muna kung ano ‘yung bank na puwede na magiging convenient sa mga tao at mase-serve nila ‘yung needs ng city government ng Makati. So nakipag-coordinate sa mga bangko,” said Dayrit, who has been working for the Accounting Department for the past 9 years.
(They were checking which bank would be most convenient for the employees and would be able to serve the needs of the city government. So they coordinated with different banks.)
The process took a while, prompting the Commission on Audit (COA) to recommend in its 2012 report that Makati adopt a payroll system using ATMs in 2012.
In its Annual Audit Report on Makati in 2013, COA noted that its recommendation was only partially implemented, as Makati was still studying the proposals of prospective banks at the time of the auditing process.
On May 6, 2013, City Resolution No 2013-037 finally authorized Mayor Junjun Binay to execute a MOA with the LandBank of the Philippines for the city government to make use of the bank’s deposit pick-up and payroll delivery services.
On June 24, 2014, City Resolution No 2014-105 was passed, authorizing Mayor Binay to represent Makati in another MOA with LandBank for the release of the salaries and benefits of employees in the city hall, the Ospital ng Makati, and the University of Makati through the bank’s Visa Debit Card Payroll System.
For convenience's sake
Records from Makati’s Human Resource and Development Office (HRDO) indicate that regular employees in 16 out of 33 city offices and city-run institutions have secured their ATM cards after completing their enrolment at LandBank since the 2014 ordinance was passed.
According to the HRDO, 879 regular employees now receive their salaries through the ATM.
As of posting, another 2,643 regular employees from the other 17 offices are still awaiting the completion of their enrolment process with LandBank.
The HRDO said casual and contractual workers will only be enrolled after the payroll system for all regular employees have been automated.
If the pending applications of the remaining regular employees will be finished this week, roughly 3,500 regular employees will be able to draw their salaries through ATM son the last payday on July or the first payday of August.
The other 4,500 casual and contractual workers will still receive cash envelopes.
For Silva and Dayrit, the Binays are not necessarily the ones to blame for the automation process’ delay.
“Alam ko wala namang kaso sa kanila ‘yun kasi panahon nila nung unang nag-ATM tsaka ‘yung sumunod, pero nag-fail nga,” Silva said. (I know it’s not an issue with them since the first attempt to use the ATM happened during their terms, but then it failed.)
Dayrit is more confident that the automation will be completed this time, given that LandBank’s systems are more efficient now.
“Kasi at the end of the day, it’s [about] the convenience sa mga empleyado,” he said. (Because at the end of the day, it’s about what's convenient for the employees.) – Rappler.com