Why Is Aquino Reluctant To Use Anti-Corruption Tools With Strategic Impact?
The conventional governance model relies on the separation of powers. The presidential model separates the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government while the parliamentary model combines the executive+legislative but still separates the judicial branch. On the extreme ends anarchy and totalitarianism sit diametrically opposite to each other. The Philippines currently uses the presidential model, although there is a growing demand to revisit the matter and perhaps make the switch to a parliamentary system.
The Traditional Way of Doing Business With the Philippine Government
The other dimension to this is the operational aspect which involves the further separation of executive functions into the different government agencies which are further decomposed into more minute operational units with jurisdiction over assigned regions, provinces, cities/municipalities, districts, and barangays.
Imagine that each of the officials and employees who are in each operational unit behaving as if the universe revolved around their operational units. It can be anywhere – the LGU business permitting office, the SEC registration office, the LTO licensing division, the DFA passporting division, the NBI clearance office, the POEA, the barangay hall, office of the governor/mayor/councilor, City Engineer’s Office, BIR. These people behave as if their offices were kingdoms and that these offices were created so that citizens can pay homage and worship the people who man these offices as demi-gods. They pay attention to you only if you fork out some grease money for the trouble of having to get your paperwork done faster.
In the Philippines, an investor has to go from one office to another, get a number, wait for their turn, pay the bill, get the clearance, then go to the next agency and repeat the process all over again. This process would take weeks and months even. So much so that this has created an industry of consultants ranging from the name brand Wall-street firms down to the common fixer. The system was so inefficient that investors just went on to do business without the necessary paperwork or at best, bribe everyone in the chain of contacts in order to speed up the process. This increased the costs of doing business with the government so much so that a lot of “small” people either don’t do business with the government anymore (“just evade taxes, they’ll collect when they really need it, just have a bribe ready when it happens”) or just accept that the “fixer” and the “grease money” are just part of the costs of doing business in the Philippines. Now imagine that happening in space (from Aparri to Jolo); time (decades, all year long, 24/7) – all the time.
Wow! I don’t think you can ascribe that kind of behavior to Gloria Arroyo. If anything at all, any Philippine President simply exemplifies the pinnacles that a crooked government employee can reach. You scratch my back, I scratch your back. I don’t blow the whistle, you don’t blow the whistle – imagine that happening in space (from Aparri to Jolo); time (decades, all year long, 24/7) – all the time.
Noynoy’s “Anti-Corruption” Measures – The Wrong Tool For the Job
Sure, Aquino and co. will catch the Top 10 crooks in the BIR. But for everyone one crook, there are probably 10 more crooks waiting for their turn. And that’s just the BIR – you have yet to include the other agencies which have sterling records in fiscal mismanagement and technical malversation.
That my friends is no longer a case of petty corruption – it is corruption that extends from the barangay all the way to the highest echelons of government power – in all branches of government – no exceptions. This is the current state of governance in the Philippines. It seems that governing the Philippines is like unraveling the proverbial Gordian knot, but it need not be.
New Paradigms – Smart Governance
I came across a blog on IBM that kept it simple. Governance was defined as “the activity of coordinating people to achieve collective goals through collaboration. You govern to effect changes in organizational behavior to achieve positive outcomes. ”
The statement is a departure from the functional separation (“silos”) of the branches of government – and ventures into the world of synchronized activities brought about by a degree of visibility and transparency of information and processes – a high level of process alignment.
The nature of todays government, like business enterprises, is changing. Government is increasingly becoming “boundaryless”, meaning that internal functional barriers are being eroded in favor of managing horizontal processes and the separation between functional departments is gradually lessening. This is the idea of extended governance – an application of the concept of the extended enterprise towards governance. An example is the opening of “one-stop shops” where an investor gets to talk and settle business with representatives of different agencies in just one location or just one point of contact.
Technology Is an Enabler of Shared Information
Underpinning the concept of extended governance is the use of a common information highway. This could have been achieved by the ZTE-NBN project. I don’t see why the project should be shelved, rather the project ought to be re-bid instead of shelved. Come to think of it, someone who saw the implications of a common information highway and would have been negatively affected by it – not just in terms of not getting the project itself – but the implications of greater visibility and transparency of information vis-a-vis reduced opportunities for graft will fiercely resist the implementation of such a program. It is ironic that a measure that would have reduced corruption was also affected by corruption. The technology itself is sound – the process was flawed. The solution then is to improve the bidding process instead of shelving the project.
It is the use of shared information and data that enables the use of cross-functional horizontal management approaches. More importantly, it is the transparency and visibility of information that allows internal and external customers, suppliers, vendors, policy-makers that makes for a responsive flow of services from the beginning to the end of the pipeline. This process is built upon a series of relationships that has in its core – the value-added exchange of information.
From Functional Silos to A Network of Partners
Indeed, partnership and more cooperation are more effective than the classic silo/snooty/fiefdom mentality. Thus trends are showing that the governance supply chain is becoming a confederation of entities, agencies, and organizations that agree on common goals and who bring specific strengths to the overall value creation and delivery process.
Recent research by the Centre for Integrated Marketing has shown that the typical scale of benefit for marketers who integrated their operations as a cross-functional activity experienced a 10 – 25 enhancement in business performance.
This gain is achieved due to a number of interrelated factors:
- Improvements in customer attitudes and behaviors from more consistent experiences of brand value.
- Synergy and multiplier effects on profitability from improvements in customer attitudes and behaviors.
- More efficient (and effective) media choices and mixes, as well as better deployment of communication disciplines.
- More flowing, efficient (and effective) business processes, creating higher added value.
- Substantially enhanced evaluation and improved applied learning across the organization.
- Improvements in staff morale, cohesion, stress and creativity.
- Reduced employee replacement costs, employee cost/benefit synergies and an enhanced employee cost/customer value ratio.
- Reduction in internal fragmentation and cost holes.
- More cost effective use of agencies and business partners with better team results.
- Cost-effective synergies.
These figures show the dividends from improving processes and investing in the right technology. These same effective and efficient approaches are already being adopted in the more progressive countries.
The thing is – whether the Philippines is ready for Government 2.0 or not – the rest of the world will march forward. If the Philippines does not step up, then it’s simple really – it will be left behind – content in its perceived national glories of the occasional flashes of talent of Charice Pempengco and Manny Pacquiao, the marital and extra-marital misadventures of Kris Aquino, the fashion sense of Noynoy Aquino, the ancientness of the Jeepney, and the tackiness of the Tarlac Hillbillies.
What if things were different?
What should we be aspiring for? I assert that we should make it our national mission to build a Smart Government.
The approach called Smart Governance Supply Chain – proposed in the IBM blog provides six easy step to govern smartly.
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Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata
The solutions, strategies, and methods are already available – it boils down to whether the Filipno people have the will, the balls, the brains, and the brawns to pull this off.
The alternative is quite too familiar – the same stagnant feudal economy. Worse, Walden Bello wants the Philippines to turn protectionist all the way. In an era where economies compete on the basis of the extended enterprise, this ensures that the Philippine economy will be the top producer of sampagita garlands, pastries and confectionaries like puto and bibingka – in a world where its neighbors produce cars, computers, nanotech, pharmaceuticals – oh yeah, and confectioneries, too. South Korea which used to be on even parity with the Philippines in the mid 80s, marches to OECD membership today, the Philippines is still dreaming about becoming a First World country 20 years from now. Walden Bello’s irresponsible ultra-protectionism and misguided emo nationalism will ensure that those 20 years get extended by another 20 years.
The ZTE/NBN and the FOIA are two pillars of an extended government that delivers value to its citizens – including reduction of corruption.
Thus far, forces allied with Noynoy Aquino’s have shut these strategic initiatives down. These could have been tools that would have had a strategic impact on reducing corruption, removing waste, building a lean government, and a responsive and resilient smart government supply chain. You can now, all kiss smart governance goodbye.
Deeper into the Rabbit Hole
If you thought Gloria’s Arroyo’s Enchanted Kingdom was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Thus far, the previews of Aquino’s governance style can either be a “Mystery on Balete Drive”, “Marima”, “Analiza”, “Flordeluna”, “The Buzz”, “Wowowee” – courtesy of an electorate that lends credence to the axiom – “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. Now playing in Philippine TV screens and hugging Philippine news headlines – introducing the Philippines and its Idiotic Governance Supply Chain model – Noynoy Aquino’s Funny Farm is “in”.
Seriously, why Is Aquino reluctant to use anti-corruption tools with strategic impact? Is he really honest? Or is he Peping and Danding’s Manchurian Candidate?