By Roy Stephen C. Canivel, April 18 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Image Credit to Rappler

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) is currently looking into allegations against government employees who are padding costs or imposing additional requirements when processing business permits, a top official said.

Of the 27 red tape-related complaints received by Arta as of April this year, one case alleged being asked to pay an additional cost while around three involved being asked to provide requirements beyond what was prescribed by current rules.

This is according to Ernesto Perez, officer-in-charge and deputy director general of Arta.

The other complaints were prompted by the delays in the processing time.

The Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act imposes stiff punishments on government employees who fail to follow the law.

Among other provisions, the law prescribes a specific window period of three to 20 days for processing permits, depending on how complex or technical the papers are.

Although the processing time could be extended, failure to follow will result in severe penalties, such as suspension for the first offense and then an administrative and criminal liability for the second offense.

When asked if some of the complaints involved so-called fixers, Perez said the agency was “still in the process of investigating.”

He said Arta would first have to investigate a case, before recommending the issue to either the Civil Service Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman.

He said no one has been suspended yet since the law went into effect in June last year.

The full enforcement of the law has been delayed by a number of factors. Its revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) have yet to be finalized.

The law also needs the appointment of a director general who will lead the Arta and promulgate the IRR. President Duterte has not appointed anyone to the position yet.

Perez said he had asked the Office of the Executive Secretary in March if he could be delegated the authority to promulgate the IRR himself in the absence of a director general.

However, Perez said the law should already be clear even without the IRR.

“The effectivity of the law is not dependent on the passage of the IRR. The law is clear.

They have to act on certain applications and requests,” he said.