Editorial: Building City Hall-A A +A
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
THAT Mayor Jonas Cortes is “toying with the idea” of buying the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) and converting it into Mandaue City’s new City Hall is a good sign.
It will, of course, require a more thorough study to find out if the idea is feasible for both Mandaue and the Provincial Government. But the point is that the mayor is showing a willingness to consider unusual solutions to a familiar local government problem: outdated and poorly designed public service spaces.
Mandaue City is not the only government entity to have outgrown its office space. Many city or municipal halls seem designed to force citizens to wander through a confusing maze of offices, on different floors, just to get a simple transaction done.
In these spaces, fixers and opportunities for petty corruption abound.
Mandaue, however, now has an opportunity to design a City Hall that prioritizes the convenience of citizens—-where form follows public service functions. Some local governments have shown attempts to make the transactions of their constituents easier, like setting up comfortable, air-conditioned lounges for taxpayers. But a City Hall designed with the transacting public’s comfort as its top priority would be a welcome surprise.
How about, for example, setting up service counters where all taxpayers can submit requirements and pay fees, regardless of whatever permit, document or service they need from City Hall? In countries that have tested the ideas of new public management, these one-stop counters have been shown to work.
In the Philippines, the local government that can reduce most transactions to two quick steps—-submission of requirements and claiming of the document needed—-is still rare.
As they prepare to set up a new City Hall, Mandaue’s officials, we hope, will continue to show the same creativity that allows them to consider out-of-left-field ideas like buying and converting the CICC. They will have a lot of details to consider and costs to keep under control. But they also have an opportunity to give Mandaue City’s public services a more contemporary, more efficient space.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 06, 2013.