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COCKTALES | Despite COA censure, highest-paid gov't exec gets another directorship

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

The highest-paid government executive, president Robert Vergara of the Government Service Insurance System (2012 compensation: P16.3 million), this week took a directorship at the struggling Philippine National Construction Corp. amid a stinging censure from government auditors about PNCC's top-heavy management and their alleged excessive compensation.

Vergara's appointment was the culmination of the replacements of the first set of PNoy appointees to the PNCC board, who had been grumbling precisely about the limitations imposed by the Commission on Audit on executive compensation and allowances.

Vergara replaced Roman Felipe Reyes, who remains a GSIS director. Former Environment secretary Elisea Gozun joined Vergara to the PNCC board, along with earlier appointees Elpidio Jamora Jr., Cristino Panlilio and Rosanna Mojica Escareal-Velasco, replacing Jose Vicente Bengzon III, Tomas Alvarez, Thomas Aquino, Rodolfo Naguit and Elmer Hernandez.

The PNCC board replacements came amid a critical COA report last month that 32 out of 43 employees of the 75-percent state-owned company were classified as "managers and executives," with executive compensation eating up 94 percent of the total personnel budget.

The audit agency also wanted PNCC, being a government-controlled corporation, to drop the private Medicard and BPI-Philam health and life insurance coverage that the PNCC management had availed of for its employees. 

The COA report also found it "unconscionable" that PNCC president Luis Sison (2012 compensation: P7.9 million) had unlimited gasoline and transportation allowance, in addition to his fellow board members charging transportation and representation allowances for expenses incurred on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

One particularly embarrassing COA finding: One unidentified director even submitted credit card receipts of his spouse for reimbursement.

"Reimbursing meals allegedly incurred in meetings during Saturdays, Sundays and holidays but charged against the credit card of the board member’s spouse would connote that the meals (had been) consumed not by the (board) member during meetings but by the family of the (board) member," the COA report wryly noted.

Makati judge summons Juico 

PCSO chairman Margarita Juico has been ordered to appear before Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Winlove Dumayas at 10 a.m. Friday to answer a petition for contempt filed by the TMA Group of Australia, the supplier of lotto paper for the government lottery operations.

The TMA Group, citing a May 2011 injunction issued by the same court ordering the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to abide by its joint-venture agreement with the Australian supplier, said that it had been forced to hale Juico to court following another refusal by the PCSO to implement the contract terms.

According to court records, PCSO had instead agreed to farm out the P600-million a year lotto paper supply contract to a gaming consortium where Liberal Party treasurer Albee Benitez is a partner.

The fresh breakdown in relations with the Australian group comes ironically in the wake of the PCSO finally agreeing to resort to arbitration with the Malaysian lotto operator for Luzon, whose franchise area had also been opened up by Juico to the Benitez group.

And as if her legal troubles were not enough, the Commission on Audit released last week its 2012 audit on the agency, ordering Juico -- that in this case charity does not begin at the PCSO board --to return over P5.2 million in alleged unauthorized allowances she and fellow directors received last year.

The COA directive is on top of another, yet-to-be-followed order requiring Juico and company to return P9.6 million in alleged extra compensation they had awarded themselves in 2011.

Money-go-round

• The spectacular rise in the financial fortunes of the country's 1% has caught the eye of Forbes, with the US business magazine now working to start a monthly Philippine edition in partnership with Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng through her Summit Media stable.

• A four-bedroom, 425-square meter, three-level townhouse with a private terrace by The Peak in Hong Kong that was built by Lucio Tan's Eton Properties has been placed on the secondary market for HK$150 million (about P835 million).

The townhouse is part of a gated 10-unit King's Court complex that was finished in 1989 -- along with other related real estate expansion in the territory -- when the provenance of the taipan's business empire in the Philippines was then under heavy PCGG scrutiny.

Heard through the grapevine

PNoy has apparently grown oblivious of his habit, caught on TV while visiting the quake-damaged basilica in Cebu, of coughing into his handkerchief and then wiping his forehead and cheeks with the same side of the hankie.

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