THE "shock" part of the State of the Nation Address consisted of an expose on the obscene compensation packages and benefits that government-owned and controlled corporations are giving their officials and employees.

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III pointed to bloated payrolls at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in Manila where officials and employees get the equivalent of over 30 months pay per year because of all their additional bonuses and allowances.

This is in addition to the houses for MWSS officials built inside a watershed area that should have been planted to trees.

While that disclosure came as part of the promised "shock and awe" nature of the address by the President, what is becoming equally shocking and obscene is the discovery that such practices are not limited to the MWSS. Local water districts in various parts of the country may be doing the same, albeit in lesser degrees.

For example, a Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro report last July 30 said even officials of the city's water district enjoyed perks similar to those of MWSS board members.

The report said a study of the Cagayan de Oro Water District books showed its board of directors received P718,000 in 2005 and P930,000 in 2006 in bonuses and allowances, not unlike the P2.5 million the MWSS board members allegedly received each year in benefits and emoluments.

The Commission on Audit said board directors of government owned and operated entities are only allowed to receive P20,000 per month, or P240,000 annually. The study also said that for every P1 each paid by a water consumer, at least a quarter of it goes to the perks of the board members, the news report added.

It said local water district officials received P4,500 per day in travel allowance, exceeding the P800 per day cap set on government officials. Benefits they received included a year-end incentive bonus of P100,800, service incentive amounting to P84,000, anniversary productivity bonus of P33,600, grocery allowance of P30,000 and financial assistance of P20,000 for each board member.

How many more local water districts or local boards throughout the country are doing it like the MWSS?

President Aquino, in his speech before Congress last July 26, said MWSS officials get, in addition to their pay: a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, Christmas bonus, Christmas package, year-end bonus, grocery allowance and financial assistance. All in all, each member of the board receives P2.5 million a year exclusive of car service, technical assistance, and loans.

An MWSS official later said the corporation will try to moderate their personnel incentives.

Talk about the expression "can of worms" that the President's address opened to scrutiny.

The beauty of Aquino's disclosure is that it opens similar government corporations and local boards to scrutiny of their finances, their perks, because the MWSS may not be alone.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)