By: Danica Supnet
Transparency reflects government performance. Today, governments are allowing citizens to access performance metrics and scorecards, which enable citizens to judge how well they are being serviced. Transparency is one of the most important services that the government gives to its citizens. In the Philippines, government transparency became the talk of the town when the Aquino administration vowed to disclose essential information that Filipinos have long wanted unfettered access to.
Making a government transparent enough is not an overnight process, particularly to a country such as the Philippines. Civil society organizations and other third parties can support or complement official efforts to make government more transparent. This is one important reason why our office is currently leading the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI) in the Philippines. AFAI seeks to track and account for funds reportedly allocated and spent for climate change adaptation projects.
I recently met with officials from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), with the far hope of securing based on our AFAI agenda a mode of partnership that can help their current transparency programs in key localities. At first I was reluctant to approach DILG offices because one of the government-led funds that our office is trying to track is the DILG’s own Performance Challenge Fund (PCF). To my surprise, DILG representatives, Ma’am Angela Mamuyac (DRR-CCA focal person) and Mr. Jojit Magumon (PCF Managing officer), turned out to be quite eager to improve the PCF’s transparency, accountability, and effectiveness. Instead of the hesitation to engage with civil society that I was expecting, the meeting opened up opportunities to work together in reviewing not only PCF-funded “adaptation projects” but also the quality of tagging and analytical processes the agency has been using through a common review of project documents and on-site project evaluation. They were not threatened by our interest (unlike many government offices nowadays) and in fact welcomed the opportunity to develop the tools they had.
They were keen to help us in our AFAI work, which they saw as a contribution to their own efforts. We ended with the commitment to share with them findings and insights from our review, and they committed to share information we required while endorsing our fieldwork to regional DILG offices.
One of the important topics raised during the meeting was DILG’s 2014 plans in mainstreaming climate change adaptation in local plans. It is very exciting to hear from the LGU-leading office that climate change will become a central component of local planning.
“We are an open book,” as one of the PCF management representatives said before we ended our meeting. The mere fact that they were eager to accommodate us is already a start in making transparency work.
Transparency is a shared responsibility; I share it too. I think it is my responsibility as a researcher to present a fair and rigorous analysis of the information that we will gather from the field, and to share this with partners in government. “Transparency at work” is within reach, especially with the confident and welcoming approach taken by DILG officials we encountered. I am hopeful that the same attitude will extend to other offices as well.