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Thursday, June 20, 2019
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Ombion: Good local governance

PERSPECTIVE

This is a continuation of my previous column “Laudable initiatives.”

GOOD governance has been the challenge to local government units (LGUs) long before the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 by both the central government particularly the Department of Local Government (DILG), and the non-government organizations or civil society organizations (CSOs), people’s organizations and political parties.

Despite the standards set by DILG for good local governance and the Code of Conduct defined by Civil Service Commission (CSC) for government officials and employees, most LGUs from province to the barangay are still far from exercising good governance.

First, data from DILG-Support to Local Government–Program Management Office (SLGP-PMO) reveals that after more than two decades since the implementation of LGC of 1991, only 15 percent of the LGUs have been awarded the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG). It means that 85 percent of LGUs are not doing good governance but are engaged in either not so good governance or even bad local governance.

Surprisingly, Armm, which has the highest poverty incidence among the regions in the country, has more than half its population are poor, ranks “first” in Mindanao and “fifth” across the country in terms of the number of SGLG awardees.

In fact, in Mindanao, only two provinces have SGLG awards. Cotabato and Basilan. It might be helpful for government employees to have a field trip to Basilan to learn from their experience if the report is at all true.

Second, as of the 2nd quarter of 2017, only 43% of the LGUs have updated Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and currently updating their CDPs.

Whether or not those updated CDPs are responsive, evidenced-based and done in a participatory manner is another question.

Certainly, initial facts say that most don’t have effective CDP or not reflective of people’s needs and interests. But what is clear is that 57% have no or have outdated CDPs.

There is a saying “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” Failing to comprehensively plan is planning to fail comprehensively. You may guess what will happen to the 57 percent of the LGUs that have no or have outdated CDPs.

Third, most LGUs are also highly dependent on the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government. The dependency rate is 85 percent on the average. There are even LGUs that are 100% dependent on the funds from the national government.

What will happen then to the LGUs if the national government will fail to provide funds? Most LGUs will probably be paralyzed, there will perhaps be chaos.

This condition could be a good opportunity for the CSOs to run the government as volunteers, but this day-dreaming, of course.

Giving more funds to the LGUs is still needed. But the message I’m trying to clarify is that there is the need to help the LGUs enhance their capacity to generate resources to reduce their dependence and enable them to provide more services to their people.

Fourth, local government accountability systems are underdeveloped.

There is no third party monitoring and evaluation of local government performance in many if not all of the 1,715 LGUs nationwide.

Every year, the national government is downloading more than P500 billion IRA funds to the LGUs, aside from the funds and projects provided by NGAs.

But the questions are: were these funds used properly? Were the funded projects able to improve the quality of life of the people, especially the poor and the marginalized? Was the poverty reduced?

Most LGUs would probably say yes, the NGAs would also perhaps say the same. But feedback from the citizens, particularly the project beneficiaries, are often unheard, or perhaps would say otherwise.

The limitation and major of government’s accountability system stems from its fear of non-government intervention especially into the state coffers and thus confining its system in a body of policy and a group of bureaucrats and technocrats, including LGU officials, dictating it, who also have high stakes in government projects.

Fifth, lack of absorptive capacity. This is the common problem during the BUB (Bottom’s Up Budgeting) days; many projects have had delayed implementation.

SLGP seniors thought all the while that money is the problem. Only later they realized that is not only money but the capability of LGUs to implement projects on time as well.

Sixth, needless to say, organized bureaucratic corruption is also a dent and practice in most LGUs. Billions of tax payer’s money are squandered every year because of this problem. There was reluctance among the framers of BUB and later the Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities (ADM) and Local Government Support Fund-Assistance to Municipalities (LGSF-AM) that this new funds given to LGUs could be another source of corruption.

The continuing, if not deepening, the problem of good local governance stems from a wide gamut of factors among them the lack of political will of DILG leadership and a number of its regional leadership to enforce effective control over LGUs.

The ugly fact is in many areas, DILG people, even the police, Bureau of Fire are beholden to mayors and governors. They are supposed to be feared, but it is the other way around. Of course, the long history of DILG as a political tool of politicians has exacerbated this problem.

The list is long and the tale is endless.

Still, SLGP-PMO people along with other divisions and units, and well-meaning government officials have so far been doing great, and I sincerely challenged them to keep the fire burning "or others will die of cold.”

(For feedback, email to ombion.ph@outlook.com)


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