MANILA, Philippines - The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), in partnership with the World Bank, launched on Monday, November 26, the Full Disclosure Policy portal where local government units (LGUs) can upload financial documents and transactions, as required by law.
The portal, which will be available to the public, aims to promote transparency and accountability and help minimize corruption and the misuse of public funds. It will also help increase the people's awareness regarding available public funds, and which projects the money goes to.
DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero said the portal and its accessibility is ultimately meant to trigger reform within LGUs.
"This journey in terms of promoting transparency is bringing us to new heights. We have raised the standards for good governance.. we certainly hope this is something all of us will make full use of in the years to come," said Panadero.
He added that one third of the LGUs have fully uploaded the required documents already, which he called a "remarkable achievement."
The launch coincided with the 100th day since the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo's death. Robredo, who is recognized for good governance, initiated the project when he was still alive.
The portal is ready for use, and LGUs are expected to upload their 2012 documents by the end of the year.
While the portal makes it significantly easier for LGUs to comply with the law to post required documents -- especially for the LGUs without a website -- the DILG said they do not yet have punishments in place for those that will fail to comply.
Panadero however, strongly pushed for participation among LGUs. Cash incentives and awards like the Seal of Good Housekeeping may be attained by participating LGUs, and for now, the DILG is hopeful that this will be enough to encourage cooperation -- as well as pressure from the public upon seeing that certain documents are missing on the portal.
Acting Country Director of the World Bank Chiyo Kanda reminded the public that the portal is only the first step for reform, and that the media and the people are needed to make the project successful.
"Unless it is used for productive dialogue, it is just documents on a website," she said.
"I really hope we use it as information to have dialogue, discussion and debate to further improve LGUs and delivery."
There are 15 documents and transactions required to be disclosed by LGUs on the portal including documents on budgets, bids, gender and development funds, and internal revenue allotment utilization among others.
Challenge for LGUs
Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, who was also present at the launch, welcomed the introduction of the portal, who said compliance is doable since it is part of their job to disclose the required information in the first place.
He said the only challenge now is to prepare it quickly, which may be difficult for those in the provinces. Gatchalian added that the public should also be taught to use the portal, which he hopes will be more user friendly.
"Next challenge is to teach the people how to use it, otherwise no one will use it, no one will read it," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
At present, the documents will be scanned and uploaded in PDF form, but he said that in the future, he'd like to see more user friendly features that will make it easier to search and understand the point or summary of the documents.
"Dapat gawing user friendly tong portal, dapat kahit sinong Juan de la Cruz ay mababasa nila, maappreciate nila," he said.
(This portal should be user friendly so that any commoner can read it, appreciate it).
Gatchalian also assured the media that the uploaded documents will be authentic, since they must first be verified by national agencies like the Commission on Audit before they are posted on the portal. - Rappler.com