Editorial: Assessing assessments

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014


HALFWAY through the year, elected government officials lead us through various rituals of assessment. In the past seven days, we’ve heard from Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama. On Monday after next, President Benigno Aquino III will take his turn with the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

As useful as these rituals are, they tend to be cloaked in abstractions, like seeking “a better life for everyone.” Abstract ideas are not necessarily untrue, but they are difficult to measure, and an assessment that does not include measurement is of limited use.

To supplement these annual speeches, the public can turn to approval ratings surveyed by groups like Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations. But these ratings, being anchored mainly on opinion, suffer from the same weakness as grand abstractions. They can also be sometimes fickle, like the public that supplies them.

Another supplement would be the performance reviews provided by government agencies, like annual audit reports and the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) scorecards and “seals of good housekeeping.”

What makes the DILG’s system interesting is that it offers the best performers among local government units a useful incentive. Local governments that perform well, according to DILG’s standards, qualify to apply for grants under the Performance Challenge Fund, which can pay for projects that meet the Millennium Development Goals, enable local economic growth, or help the community prepare for disasters.

The most democratic way of assessing our public leaders’ performance happens every three years, when we get to decide whether to reelect them or cast our lot with their rivals.

Elections are imperfect, marred in some communities by vote-buying, harassment and other forms of fraud. But perhaps their biggest strength over other forms of assessment is that, when used wisely, they give citizens the most control over the assessment process. They directly connect the assessment to the identification and, ideally, the fulfillment of citizens’ needs.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 09, 2014.

Opinion

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