Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

On Robredo’s LGU Transparency Project

Posted by butalidnl on 18 July 2010

Secretary Robredo of the DILG (Dept of the Interior and Local Government) said that he will encourage LGUs (local government units) to post their income and expenses in the DILG website. This is to promote transparency in the management of LGUs.

I think that Robredo’s plan is a good idea. However, there are a number of things that may delay or could frustrate a good outcome of the plan. First among this is the fact that Robredo cannot compel LGUs to actually report their incomes and expenses. Robredo’s idea is that LGUs who don’t report will be shamed into reporting, since otherwise they will be accused of “hiding something”. This is well and good, but this will work only when the great majority of LGUs do report, and we don’t know if they will, or when they will, report. Thus, if only a few report, the rest can always say that they have practical problems in reporting, so they can’t report this year, or something like that. And since the DILG can’t force them to actually report, they may go on saying this for a number of years.

And of course, even if LGUs do actually report their expenses, we cannot expect them to be detailed below the project level. Thus, at best, we will know how specific projects cost, but we will not get details as to what exactly the project consisted of. And, thus, it would be quite difficult for outsiders to judge if the money had indeed been well spent, for most projects.

And then, there are expense items which could not be judged even if reported.  Take for example, municipal employee’s salaries. How are we to know how many of these employees actually appear for work (and how many are merely “15-30” employees, because they appear only to collect their pay checks)? Or that they are doing their work efficiently?

Citizens’ Participation
I think that  Robredo’s plan would not work automatically, and that citizens should participate in this plan of getting LGUs to be more transparent. Citizens residing in the provinces and towns themselves would be in a good position to judge whether the reported expenses are well spent.  And this means that someone local should review their LGU’s report, and investigate if it is correct, and if the items are not overpriced.

But even before that, there needs to be a network using both traditional and alternative media in which citizens would pressure LGUs to really disclose their income and expenses. This will not be easy, but we really need to do this as citizens. I think we need to form something like a “LGU Transparency Watch” (composed of bloggers, tweeters, newspaper, radio, etc)  to monitor and compel LGUs, through public opinion, to disclose their income/expense accounts. Later, when more of them report regularly, we can even try looking into these accounts to see if their money is spent correctly.  Also, those LGUs which hold out (i.e. don’t report their income/expenses) should really be exposed through this network.

I think Robredo’s plan should work. With the national government and citizens pushing for it from opposite ends, LGUs should eventually become more transparent.

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