THE once-extravagant perks enjoyed by officials of Cagayan de Oro Water District (Cowd) have been trimmed down, said Joel A. Baldelovar, chairman of the Cowd board of directors.

Baldelovar's reaction came following Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro's July 30 story, which compared the benefits and emoluments of the local water district and those of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

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MWSS was thrust into the spotlight after President Benigno C. Aquino disclosed that its board members receive P2.5 million each year, on top of the P250,000 "token" bonuses once their terms of office ended.

The Sun.Star story compared that amount to the "golden parachute" given to an outgoing COWD board member sometime in 2005, amounting to P720,000, nearly thrice the MWSS figure.

In 2005 and 2006, Cowd's board of directors received P718,000 and P930,000, respectively, as bonuses and allowances, not far from what the MWSS board members were getting.

But Baldelovar said the current board had already "taken the initiative" to reduce the perks, starting in 2007.

He said the allowances and bonuses, all disallowed by the Commission on Audit, were completely removed in 2009. The perks include year-end incentive bonus amounting to f 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 member of the board.

Baldelovar said the current board receives P42,000 per month each, P800 per day travel allowance and 5,000 cash gift.

Bonuses for the rank and file, meanwhile, depend on performance, he added.

The reduction in bonuses and other emoluments has resulted to around P42 million in savings, which Baldelovar said was realigned to expansion and improvement of services.

A study on COWD's finances showed that for every P1 of water bill a consumer paid in 2005, 37 centavos was spent illegally, and 21.5 centavos in 2006.

It was conducted by Technical Working Group (TWG) of the City Cooperative Development Council (CCDC), based on the 2005 and COA 2006 audit reports.

The study noted that in 2005, COA declared the P130 million disbursements by COWD as "without legal basis", meaning the allocations were disallowed by existing laws.

In the succeeding year, the "illegal" appropriations slipped to P105 million. (DVA)