WHILE the forthcoming May 2010 elections are hogging the headlines, the Philippine government, through six government agencies, is silently working on urgent governance reforms that could no longer wait for the next president to be sworn into office.

Depending on the performance of these agencies’ anti-corruption programs, the country could finally seal the deal on a US$500-million, five-year grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent US foreign aid agency created by Congress with strong bipartisan support that is helping lead the fight against global poverty.

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MCC said it is “changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart US foreign assistance by focusing on good policies, country ownership, and results.”

The six government agencies – the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) – are undertaking the Performance Governance System (PGS), a local adaptation of the Balanced Scorecard applied to the public sector, to track their performance against a set of goals.

These agencies will make their performance commitments public on March 25, 2010 at the Public Governance Forum, which is jointly convened by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), the National Competitiveness Council, and the Development Academy of the Philippines.

“We believe this is a more compelling story than the elections. Here are government agencies, backed by private sector partners, saying that governance reforms cannot take a backseat even during an election season. And these will not be mere rhetoric. They're making public their performance commitments for 2010 and telling everyone to judge their performance by these parameters. This is serious,” said Dr. Jesus Estanislao, ISA’s founding chairman and former finance chief during the Aquino administration.

The Public Governance Forum will highlight the National Government’s commitment to pursue the PGS as part of its good governance (and anti-corruption) program.

The six agencies will publicly post on their websites their governance scorecards and commit to make quarterly reports on the basis of these governance scorecards through their website.

ISA is a civil society, not-for profit association, focused on raising the standards of public governance practice in the Philippines.

Inspired by the worldwide success of the balanced scorecard model developed in Harvard and applied to the corporate sector, ISA pioneered the adoption of the Performance Governance System (PGS), a strategic management tool that enables entire communities to channel their energies, abilities and knowledge to pursuing one path towards long-term development.

To date, ISA has a working relationship with about 30 cities, one of which (the City of Iloilo) has already achieved Global Hall of Fame status for implementing the balanced scorecard.

In part through the PGS, the six government agencies have been introduced to the Millennium Challenge Corporation and gained for the country nearly $20.7 million in “threshold program” to help reduce opportunities for corruption and improve revenue administration by strengthening the monitoring and investigative functions of the Ombudsman and Department of Finance.

The National Government is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the MCC expected to be completed by the end of March 2010.

Estanislao said six more agencies are slated to undertake the PGS process before June 2010. These are: the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Deparment of Budget and Management, Civil Service Commission, Development Academy of the Philippines, the Office of the President, and the National Economic and Development Authority.

The agencies’ anti-corruption programs are being led by senior career undersecretaries so that the governance reforms will be pursued even with a change in leadership, he added. (Press release)