Airlines Seek Customs Overtime Padding Probe

Airline industry is willing to cooperate with the Ombudsman in investigating a complaint filed by airport Customs examiners against their immediate seniors for apparently stuffing their overtime claims with airline companies, and pocketing, instead of distributing properly, the money that is being collected.

The spokesman for the Board of Airline Representatives (VBAR), Mr. Bayani Agabin, mentioned yesterday that the complant supports “our longstanding suspicion of overcharging and abuse of this overtime arrangement. We are thankful that the present administration has decided to do away with the backward practice of a single shift from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon plus overtime, and instead operate 24/7 on three shifts at key ports as is done worldwide.”

Airlines paid airport Customs approximately P2 billion since the early 1990s until 2005, unfortunately when they decided to stop paying, airport Customs sought them to double their charges.

There about 200 Customs employees at the airport. Which then the airlines challenged the overtime practice in court, arguing that Customs employees are government staffs, not theirs.

The complaint before the Ombudsman was filed in August 2009 by some examiners who did not get their share.

Agabin said that it will send a strong message to stumbling civil servants and that the resolution of this case would resound across the government.

Agabin also mentioned that the Ombudsman should find out if the check payments from individual airlines were deposited to the government accounts and it is properly accounted and distributed, whether the recipients professed that these are part of their taxable compensation income.

“If they encashed the checks and divided it among themselves, then this constitutes malversation which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment,” he said. “This may also amount to a violation of Civil Service Commission rules on double compensation, Commission on Audit rules on accounting and disbursement of funds, and tax laws on payment of taxes on income.” Agabin added.

According to the complaint, Customs collectors prepare two sets of payroll.

One is presented to the airline that shows the complete list of examiners even if some are actually absent, on leave or had been transferred, while the other is the “final payroll” where those actually absent were taken off the list and their share is allegedly pocketed by the superiors, the complaint said.

The airport Customs personnel is also been abused this overtime practice by adding meals and transportation allowances to their billings, and charging four times if four planes land for the same hour they serve, he said.