The Anti-Red Tape and the Philippine Transparency Seal-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Monday, April 8, 2013
IT IS a proven fact that red tape has become part of the country’s history, a practice rooted in our culture that continues to stain our bureaucracy. Just to secure documentary requirements like certificates or licenses for example, thousands of Filipinos had to deal with voluminous requirements and seemingly endless processes especially in seeking business permits, passports and clearances. I heard stories that even lowly retired government employees had to bring something as a gift to their head office counterparts so that their papers and document will be given priority and signed. I hope gone are the days when live chicken and bayongs filled with vegetable and fruits serve as grease objects to fast track certain procedures. Back then, if you are from Baguio and Benguet, chances are, you’ll be asked if you had brought something like a strawberry jam or a soft broom.
The Republic Act 9485, otherwise known as the Anti-Red Tape Act (Arta) of 2007 has been in effect since September 5, 2008 following the issuance of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) by the Civil Service Commission. It provides that all government agencies including departments, bureaus, offices, instrumentalities, or government-owned and or controlled corporations, or local government or district units shall set up their respective standards to be known as the Citizen’s Charter within one year after the effectivity of said law. The act aims to promote efficiency and transparency in government with regard to the manner of transacting with the public by requiring each agency to simplify frontline service procedures, formulate service standards to observe in every transaction and make known these standards to the clients/citizens.
As stated in Article II, Section 27 of the 1987 Constitution, the State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and shall take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption. All agencies covered under the Arta therefore must undertake reengineering of their transaction and procedures including time and motion to reduce and simplify their steps, processing time and charges in providing services. The number of signatories shall be limited to a maximum of five signatures per transaction. With the Arta in place, there should be no reason that an application cannot be signed because an official next in rank to the main signatory can automatically sign to expedite the procedure. If there is no official next in rank present and available, the head of the department, office or agency shall designate an officer-in-charge from among the next lower rank in the same unit.
By now, the Citizen’s Charter should already be in place among all government units. It is an official document, a service standard and a pledge that communicates information on the services provided by the concerned government agency to the public. It describes the step-by step procedure for availing a particular service, and the guaranteed performance level that they may expect for that service.
Mounted as a billboard or passed on as published material, the Citizen’s Charter must outline the vision and mission of each agency stating the frontline services that they offer to clients. Information like step-by-step procedure, the officer or employee responsible for each step, documents to be presented by an applicant and the amount to be paid must be conspicuously displayed so that clients obtaining a service will be attended to without much delay. The same rules apply for offices which allow computer-based access to frontline services. As a form of public assistance, the Arta encourages government offices to have information and grievance desks where an officer knowledgeable on their frontline services offered shall be available for consultation and advice. The desk shall be attended to at all times even during office breaks including lunch period.
So what is this Transparency Seal? It has been said that a pearl buried inside a tightly-shut shell is practically worthless. Government information is likened to a pearl that is meant to be shared with the public in order to maximize its inherent value. Section 7.0, National Budget Circular No. 542 of August 29, 2012 states that the Transparency Seal is likened to a pearl shining out of an open shell. It is a symbol of a policy shift towards openness in access to government information. On the one hand, it hopes to inspire Filipinos in the civil service to be more open to citizen engagement by inviting the Filipino citizenry to exercise their right to participate in governance.
As the circular connotes, the Transparency Seal is aimed at promoting transparency and enforce accountability in all national government agencies. The transparency seal shall contain information, agency mandates and functions, names of its officials with their position and designation, and contact information, annual reports, approved budgets and corresponding targets. Most major government programs, projects and services nowadays are categorized in accordance with the five key results areas under a 2011 Executive Order. These programs, projects and identified beneficiaries are subjected to full disclosure as to their status of implementation, project evaluation and assessment including the annual procurement plan, contracts awarded and the names of contractors, suppliers and consultants hired. I sincerely hope that with these acts and transparency measures, Mr. Johnny de la Cruz will soon be issuing out praises and letters of commendation to public servants instead of complaints addressed to the Ombudsman or letters to the editors.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 09, 2013.