Junking junkets

March 24, 2019

Public service is not a Club Med privilege.

It is not a pleasure cruise, resort accommodation, and bed of roses.

On the contrary,  government employment is a vow of a simple, Spartan lifestyle that shuns luxury excessive privileges and unrestrained and unnecessary expenses of public funds.

The most commonly abused privilege in public service is travel ostensibly for conferences seminars, and conventions, especially abroad.

Quite admittedly, some of these international events are legitimate and even necessary for the professional growth or career advancement of public officials and employees. The goal is to make them more updated on global best practices and promote efficiency in the home office.

But the grant of the privilege must be rationalized and only given meritoriously for deserving government personnel.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has issued an executive order (EO) banning junkets for government officials and employees.

"All forms of travel junkets shall be strictly prohibited," read the EO No. 77 signed by Duterte on March 15 but was only released to the media on Friday.

The EO also mandated government officials and employees to travel in economy class except for Department Secretaries, Undersecretaries, and Assistant Secretaries if their trip is more than four hours.

The EO also required government workers to use public modes of transportation on their travels.

"Only the ordinary public conveyance or customary modes of transportation shall be used. The use of chartered trips, special hires of public utilities, garage cars, water vessels, and other extraordinary means of transportation shall not be allowed unless justified by the prevailing circumstances," the EO read.

The EO also banned the holding of strategic planning workshops or team building activities abroad.

The newly-signed EO also prohibits government officials and employees from accepting a trip paid for in full or partially by suppliers or contractors with pending requests or applications, or future dealings with the government agency or unit they belong to.

"Official foreign trips partially or fully sponsored or funded by private corporations or private individuals shall be fully disclosed," the EO added.

The EO also sets the amounts for clothing allowance, daily subsistence allowance, and representation expenses of officials travelling abroad.

Under the EO, officials whose foreign travels last for more than a month are the only ones entitled to a clothing allowance.