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ADB backs move away from ‘paper-based’ SALN administration

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Asian Development Bank (ADB)

THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) called for more automation in monitoring officials’ wealth in coordination with banks and land registries, and affirmed the need to maintain the requirement for civil servants to file Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

“While the SALN administration in the Philippines has an enormous paper-based workload associated with it, and the rate of prosecution is low, it is better to have it than not. Within the existing framework, improvements to the system could be made through automation and data matching with banks, property registries, and other third parties, much like a tax administration does to detect risk in taxpayers,” it said.

“If such systems’ functionality within a tax authority already exists for taxpayers’ wealth checks, it could be extended to the financial affairs of tax officials,” the ADB added.

It added that technical training packages for Philippine revenue officials should also address management skills, apart from upgrading their core revenue-generating skills.




“Corporate services such as human resources and training within a tax authority are often overlooked when technical assistance is provided, with emphasis on revenue-producing areas such as audit, collection, ICT (information and communications technology), or indeed, tax policy areas such as expanding the tax base, rationalizing incentives/exemptions, and changing rates,” the ADB said in a report, “Tax and Development Challenges in Asia and the Pacific.”

“Apart from technical skills, it is equally important to pay attention to ‘soft skills,’ such as communication, leadership, and strategic planning, which are vital to the success of a tax authority,” it added.

The regional lender provided a $1 million technical assistance loan in 2013 to help raise tax revenue.

The program, which ADB described as “successful,” helped the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) establish a new staff training system for newly-recruited officials.

It provided assistance on international best practices for staff training and tax administration; a training strategy and medium-term training plan; the training of lecturers, and new training courses for recruits.

“There is considerable value to be realized from investment in the training function, in terms of domestic revenue mobilization,” it said.

It also noted the training function can “promote messages of anti-corruption, desired behavior, and ethics,” which could be incorporated into management training and existing courses.

The government in February launched the Philippine Tax Academy (PTA) for tax collectors and administrators and selected applicants from the private sector.

Republic Act No. 10143 of 2009 states that all existing officials and personnel of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, and the Bureau of Local Government Finance shall be required to undergo the “re-tooling and enhancement seminars and training programs to be conducted by the Philippine Tax Academy” and that all applicants to these bureaus should “pass the basic courses before they can be hired whether on contractual or permanent status.” — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan