From the very beginning, Marcel S. Pan, the newly elected mayor of Goa, Camarines Sur, knew his job would require him to walk on water.
His predecessor not only turned over to him the key to the municipality, but also its empty coffers. A municipality waist-deep in debt, a lazy and unprofessional workforce, and an overstaffed office bursting at the seams with political accommodations were his inheritance. As if to commiserate with the new mayor, the municipal hall itself looked dilapidated and helpless. This was in May 1988.
Goa’s budget deficit reached P2.8 million, which meant there were no resources left for public services. Debt was even higher at P4.5 million and employees had not been paid their salaries for one to three months. There were little or no accounting controls. Books and bank records did not tally.
Demoralized government workers were often arrogant and tactless in their dealings with constituents, and went on frequent breaks. Taxpayers refused to pay, and relied heavily on their political connections to collect refunds or avoid payment.
From 131, the municipal government trimmed its workforce down to 96, with the Office of the Mayor having the leanest staff of all. The axe fell heaviest on the politically sensitive Municipal Treasury Office, where the number of employees was trimmed to nine from 27. Even the municipal treasurer’s head was not spared, and was relieved from service upon the recommendation of the Commission on Audit. The municipal accountant’s post was given to a real accountant, and made independent from the treasurer.
The general workforce underwent training and were given incentives to obtain college degrees. Some were given scholarships and grants. As a result, the attitude of municipal employees became client- and output-oriented. Computers, nice offices, uniforms, not to mention the salaries given on time, became part of daily life.
To counter accusations that the reorganization was politically motivated, the municipal government created a Personnel Evaluation Board, a Placement Committee, Personnel and Selection Board, and a Grievance Committee to address all issues related to the reform. Department heads, the rank-and-file and the employees association were represented in these boards.
“We run it like a corporation. But unlike a corporation, our motivation is not profit, but the delivery of basic services to our people,” Mayor Pan says.
A year after the reorganization, the municipal government posted a huge turnaround in its finances. Total income rose 46% in 1999. Savings from the retrenchment alone amounted to almost P1 million. The deficit of P2.8 million in 1998 gave way to a surplus of P2.8 million in 1999. As a result, major priority development projects on infrastructure, education, agriculture, computerization and capability programs for municipal employees were implemented.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 2002 Galing Pook Awards.