12 November 2015

The government can pay for citizen participation

by Dondon Parafina

Note: This is part 2 of the blog titled, “The government should pay for citizen participation”.

All throughout the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit 2015, which was held in Mexico last October 27-29, I tried to steer discussions around the idea of government financing of citizen participation. I purposely used this opportunity to sound off this idea.

The feedback was promising. In one session, an African noted that it is ideal but would not happen in their country in the immediate future. Perhaps in 50 years, he added. A Sri Lankan remarked that he never thought of that track of support for civil society work on accountability, but it made a lot of sense. The American moderator praised the idea and agreed that institutionalization of citizen participation logically entails financing by the government itself. The Indian moderator in another session opined that it’s a viable arrangement that will require a policy and systems study.

Let me level up the discussion and bravely claim that there are indications that the government can actually pay for citizen participation in public governance. I do not mean only that it should pay in principle; I believe there are also practical reasons  that it can do so.

03 October 2015

The government should pay for citizen participation

by Dondon Parafina

Citizen participation and citizen engagement in governance are buzzwords in the civil society and non-profit sector.

Citizen participation takes place when citizens attend government consultations, observe processes, monitor projects, respond to surveys, gather and analyze data and report findings, etc. A government agency can claim to be inclusive, attentive and responsive to citizens’ needs when it features one or two or a combination of these tools in their processes, whether it’s planning, budgeting, spending or auditing. These tools for participation help improve the quality of government services because the authorities can hear direct feedback from the citizens, know what the service users or citizen customers want, and fix reported problems. Any government manager genuinely concerned with the agency's  performance should be interested in citizen participation, in the same manner that private businesses make sure they understand and get feedback from their customers to be competitive in the market.

On the citizens’ side, participation also translates into empowerment to exact accountability from government. Such approach to participation is what we have come to know as social accountability.

17 April 2015

An academic experience

By Adelle Chua

Political science teacher Anthony Badilla of Palawan  State University was in the process of organizing a half-day activity among his students. While surfing the Web, he had read about a new program called Citizen Participatory Audit, spearheaded by the Commission on Audit through partnership with a civil society organization. He thought it was a great, novel way of involving citizens in running the government.

He had wanted to create an opportunity for his students to translate what they were learning to more tangible action beyond the walls of the university.

In early December, however, Mr. Badilla received an invitation to attend a geotagging workshop organized by, of all agencies, the CoA. Imagine thus his surprise when he discovered that the workshop was an activity of the same CPA that he had been reading about and wanted to share to his students.

And so the half-day activity no longer had to be organized -- for now.

Lower Mekong countries could take on social accountability as a sub-region

by Dondon Parafina

Countries in the Lower Mekong sub-region, composed of Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, are slowly but decisively making strides in social accountability. ANSA-EAP is happy to be part of this process.

Cambodia, for instance, has been a priority for ANSA-EAP since 2008. Despite the challenges in its socio-political setting, we saw great potential in pursuing the social accountability agenda for the country, at least as a learning exercise for both government and civil society. And indeed for the past seven years, ANSA-EAP’s presence in Cambodia has thrived; our social accountability initiatives have continued to gain ground.

22 January 2015

Technology for transparency

By Adelle Chua

Engr. Noel Sta. Ines
Noel Sta. Ines has been around. A civil engineer by training, he has worked with government, specifically with the Ministry of Local Governments and Community Development, in the 1980's.  He then moved over to the Department of Public Works and Highway. It was in 1997 when he transferred to the development sector, as a procurement specialist with the World Bank.

His job at the WB is tough, but his advocacy is even bigger.

At the capacity building session at the Puerto Princesa City Hall in Palawan, Sta. Ines shared his geotagging expertise to an audience of Region IV-B auditors and civil society representatives who would comprise the audit teams who would look into the farm-to-market roads for phase 2 of the Citizen Participatory Audit.

Why geotaging? “It is an innovative tool to enhance transparency and supervision of development projects,” he said.

And if “geotagging” sounds just a bit too hi-tech at first blush, Sta. Ines advises, do not despair. “If you have an interest in learning something, you will learn it even if it is not your expertise.”

09 December 2014

An engineer’s opinion

By Adelle Chua

Engr. Erlinda Go
Seventy-seven year old Erlinda Go only heard about Citizen Participatory Audit on the morning of the workshop in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, when the president of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers - Palawan chapter asked her to attend it on his behalf.

Before the morning ended, she was completely sold. “Napakaganda ng programa (the program is very worthy),” she said. “I have very high expectations.”

Because of this, Mrs. Go will do more than report back to her president what went on in that initial meeting on November 20. Instead, she will try to be part of one of the audit teams, composed of auditors from the Commission on Audit and of representatives of civil society, which would look into whether farm-to-market roads in Palawan towns had been constructed according to specification.

08 December 2014

Check this school: An education success story in Cambodia

By San Chey

O'Chrey primary school is a school in Ochrey Village, Baraing Thleak commune, Phnom Prik district, Battambang province in northwest Cambodia. It was established in 2006 by villagers themselves who decided they must act if they wanted their children to have some formal education. The school was recognized by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport six years later, or in 2012.

Photo courtesy of KIND Cambodia
The structure used to be a storage house for corn, measuring only 6 meters by 5 meters. Its rooms were made of wood and its roof, of Zinc. It stood under a tree, near a farm. It did not have walls. There were two classrooms standing on the community-owned land.

Enrollment continued to increase despite these conditions. For the academic year 2013-2014, there were 175 students. For 2014-2015 , the number could increase to 219. But school principal Mr. Pot Saroeun said there were only three teachers, two of whom are contracted. Worse, one of these two will resign because of the low salary that could not support her living condition.