#BeTheBoss: How to hold government accountable
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III calls the people his "Bosses." He did so several times during his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA). But how does one become the President's boss?
This question was tackled at a forum dubbed as #BeTheBoss held on Wednesday, July 30 at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Mandaluyong.
UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG) Professor Edna Co suggested in her speech that being the "boss" means citizen participation in governance.
Governance "brings in citizens into the framework of managing the society," Co stressed.
Citizen report card
Anti-corruption group BantayPH presented a concrete initiative that involves citizens in governance while holding the government accountable – the citizen report card.
Operating on the same principles practiced in learning institutions, the citizen report card aims to empower citizens by enabling them to grade the quality of public service delivered by government agencies.
The group mobilized its volunteers to visit and grade government offices according to their performance and public service delivery.
Under the volunteer program, volunteers devoted 15 hours of their time, spread out into 3-5 days, to visit a particular government office.
BantayPH co-founder Happy Ferraren presented the results of the citizen report card, giving the audience a glimpse into how some local government units in Metro Manila fared in a random performance test.
For example, volunteers graded the performance of Quezon City hall with three and a half stars. On the other hand, Manila only received a three-star grade from volunteers. (You can check how your city hall fared in the citizen report card here.)
"With the power to comment on and rate the frontline service performance of government offices," Civil Service Commission Francisco Duque III noted that, in this way, the public truly becomes the boss.
According to Asian Development Bank's Joel Mangahas, similar initiatives are being observed in both democratic and non-democratic Asian societies to aid in improving public services.
"It is not always the case that government is not willing to implement reforms. Sometimes, there is commitment; however, they lack in the knowledge and information to identify the correct measures needed," Mangahas noted.
According to Mangahas, initiatives like citizen report cards are ways by which citizens and civil society groups can provide feedback to government offices, helping them improve their services.
One of the steps for implementing initiatives like citizen report card, according to Mangahas, is to identify its main target. As in the case of BantayPH, they focused on the government compliance to the Anti-Red Tape Act. (INFOGRAPHIC: 10 right things to expect from government offices)
However, there are challenges to citizen participation. One of the forum participants noted that many local government offices are not open to citizen participation.
For Co, the key to solving this issue is citizen pressure on local executives.
Duque echoed this saying, "We can make citizen participation a matter of culture, making it an antidote to apathy."
The panelists agreed that citizens play a crucial role in keeping the government accountable to their mandate.
As Ferraren puts it, "if you want the government to listen to you, be someone worth listening to." - Rappler.com
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