Bayan Muna calls for assets audit of SSS officials
A militant lawmaker on Thursday said an assets and investments audit as well as a lifestyle check must be conducted on all of Social Security Systems board members and other officials of the state-run pension agency in the light of controversy hounding its senior executives.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said his proposal was apart from the suspension and freezing of all the bank and financial accounts of the four SSS executives who were into alleged self-dealing in the stock market.
“This is in line to see if indeed that it is only the four SSS executives who are using their positions to enrich themselves. They must remember that they are there to serve the members of the SSS and most of them are political appointees. They are not there to become rich but to share their supposed skills and talents to the people,” Zarate said.
“As it is, the salaries and bonuses of SSS officials are already so high compared to other government-owned-and -controlled corporations, so they must do all they can to serve the people honestly,” he added.
Zarate also said that the planned increse in contributions of SSS members should be lifted in the wake of the controversy.
Earlier, deputy minority leader and Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Office of the Ombudsman and the Capital Markets Integrity Corp. (CMIC) to investigate the matter.
“We are astounded at the manner in which the SSS’s second-highest ranking executive officer and three subordinates allegedly took advantage of their positions in transactions and acted for their own interests, rather than for the interests of the pension fund,” Campos said.
“They may have committed prohibited dealings under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Ant-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. This is why the NBI and the Ombudsman should get involved,” Campos said.
Campos urged the NBI to perform a “forensic accounting” on the private stock trades of the executives who are now facing an administrative complaint for “serious dishonesty and grave misconduct” before the Social Security Commission, the pension fund’s governing board.
Another labor group in Partido Manggagawa (PM) also called for a stop to the proposed hike in SSS contributions amidst the scandal surrounding the dealings of four of its officials.
The four SSS officials who resigned were SSS equities investment division chief Reginald Candelaria, SSS chief actuary George Ongkeko Jr., SSS executive vice president for investments Rizaldy T. Capulong and equities product development head Ernesto D. Francisco Jr.
The SSS executives SSS have been accused by a commissioner of conflict of interest and profiting from illegal transactions.
“The SSS must first clean its house and implement internal reforms before any additional burden is imposed on more than 32 million workers who are its members and beneficiaries. The planned 1.5% yearly increase in contributions starting next year up to year 2020 will significant cut into workers’ take home pay,” according to Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.
He added that “As an alternative to hike in contributions, we suggest cutting perks and privileges of SSS officials and increasing the fund coverage by running after employers who do not remit contributions. All these must form part of internal reforms that should include firewalls against corruption and illegal transactions.”
The SSS has announced that it was proposing hike in contributions from 11% to 12.5% starting next year and for the succeeding years. By 2020, the contribution will rise to 17% of workers’ monthly pay.
“The conflict of interest and illegal transactons of the three SSS executives is probably just the tip of the icebarg as far as immoral profiting from the workers’ fund is concerned. Back in 2013, performance bonuses of more than a million each for SSS commisioners and top officials generated much outrage,” Magtubo said.
“Also there are numerous abusive employers who do not remit contributions withheld from the wages of their employees. In our work assisting workers, non-remittance of social security contributions is a frequent complaint. Not enough enforcement is being done by the SSS on this grave issue,” he added.