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Saturday, July 20, 2019
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Aguilar: Ignorance is expensive

Against the current

WHILE I was editing the articles for today’s print, I came across a piece from one of our business columnists Enrique Soriano with the title “Ignorance is more expensive.” I was moved to use this title to raise into the open how ignorance from amongst elected officials can be so costly too for LGUs (local government units) and the people.

I have handled quite a number of local chief executives as governance consultant, and while we have remarkable champion mayors and governors that are highly skilled in governance and management of resources we also have quite a lot of those who are totally clueless about their roles as chief executives and practically have no skillset to run a city or municipality. But since their people don’t know any better, they always get away with their poor choices at the expense of people’s tax money. And we are not yet even talking about corruption here but simple ignorance of their roles and functions. Such a waste of power.

By the way, wasted power is not only limited to chief executives. In fact, almost always the most wasted powers are actually in the legislative department simply because our political culture is wired to be more like a feudal system where everyone else follows the feudal lord otherwise he or she would get into so much trouble. Simply put, the mayor or the governor becomes the little king in their areas. And everyone else is expected to bow down to them, bypassing the process of check and balance as well as in depth study and healthy discussion of certain issues.

Good if the local chief is intelligent and innovative enough because that way progress is propelled faster than usual with all the short cuts going on. But almost always, especially in small municipalities, LGUs do the usual things they do since time immemorial with few pet projects of the chief, no game changing of some sort.

That said, national governments such as the DILG, DOH, DSWD, DA and CSC should intensify their coaching and mentoring programs for the LGU to improve their absorptive capacity of downloaded programs and projects and for the local leaders to be taught on their basic functions and powers. In fairness to these agencies, they already have existing programs for coaching LGUs, however, the mayors just send their representatives who are not calling the shots at the end of the day and so the capacity development goes down the drain. Perhaps the challenge is how they can compel these government officials to sit down and learn.

Another reality that complicates this problem even further are the private consultants who are as clueless about the bureaucracy but pretends to be experts of things yet almost always causing delays and bringing more trouble for the local chief executives as they power trip and power play with the department heads who had to deal with budget allocation and procurement process as well as with other stakeholders. And since these consultants have no accountability whatsoever, they would easily point the blame to the organic employees when programs or projects would fail. They are always scratch-free.

The resources in the local government units have long been wasted due to the lack of knowledge and appropriate skillset of those who were elected in office. But it is always the people who suffer at the end of the day with the absence of social services that should have been provided to them. The thing is, these officials are also clueless as to how much power they wasted and how much cost was paid due to their inadequacy. They continue to feel entitled amidst the injustices brought about by their lack of knowledge. After all, they are the little kings in their LGUs.


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