Aguilar: Executive and legislative twinning

Against the current

I HAD some clients in my governance consultancy who specifically requested that I be part of their organic workforce as senior executive so that I can better handle the planning and implementation of programs, projects and activities in their local government unit (LGU). The idea is that as a tenured government officer I would have command over the different aspects in the bureaucracy while I capacitate the workforce for a certain period of time. Such set up is actually almost always more effective than my periodic coaching and mentoring of the department heads as an external consultant.

Anyway, I had a couple of LGUs that I helped as tenured officer for a period of time, one was Butuan City. One of the best practices of the said city even before I came in was the concept of twinning; it is where every executive department is closely linkaging with their corresponding committee chairperson in the legislative department.

In Butuan, it is a common practice for a city councilor to actively participate in strategic planning of programs and projects as well as in the implementation of such by the respective executive departments of the local government.

Such practice may seem unthinkable. Others may question the independence of check and balance of the separate bodies. Some may also have apprehensions that this may not work in a polarized LGU, but if this is given a try it may just expedite the implementation of all LGU targets and deliverables.

You see, a lot of gaps are bridged in real time when the wall between the executive and legislative gets opened through a twinning program. If a councilor gets a firsthand update of the program of the executive and is given part in its implementation, he or she can automatically facilitate the promulgation of enabling laws to ensure its success including appropriation of the needed budget. Public hearings also get conducted to check if the priorities of the executive are the actual sentiments of the population.

But how is the concept of twinning different from the exercise of inviting executive officials in a legislative hearing in aid of legislation? The difference lies on the terrain. In the concept of twinning, it is the councilor who crosses over to the executive world as a participant observer. He gets part of the discussion but is not allowed to overlap the function of the executive. The concept of twinning also provides opportunity for the legislative to check how the executive implements a program thereby putting them on their toes and ensuring accountability of achieving outputs and outcomes. On the other hand, he can also become a champion in lobbying certain programs to get priority in the appropriation. The only downside of this is the possibility that a councilor may get confused of his or her role and may act as an implementor. But such can be prevented if the roles are clarified right from the start.

Yes, such practice may be considered as treading on thin ice, and it may not necessarily work on certain places and certain dynamics, but it would be outright wrong to say it has no merit. And if we weigh the possible gains versus the risk we take on this kind of innovation, most certainly the twinning program will be seen on a positive note.

I highly recommend that LGUs will give it a try, even just by starting off with one program.


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