Managing public governance deficit

Published October 21, 2020, 3:44 PM

by Diwa C. Guinigundo


Diwa C. Guinigundo


 Bad governance has to yield to good governance.

The International Monetary Fund is now busy monitoring whether public officials are working for the best interest of their citizenries. Its thrust is to highlight transparency and disclosure for better assessment of public service. Whatever data could be made available by this process could prevent corruption, promote accountability, and call-out conflicts of interest.

True, our own commitment to good governance goes at least a few decades back. We already have a system of disclosure among public servants, the required Statement of Assets and Liabilities or SALN being one of them. RA 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees of 1989, prescribes standards and ethical values for public servants. On matters of government procurement, RA 9184 of 2003 promotes good governance,  transparency, accountability, equity, efficiency and economy. Executive Order 2 of 2016 allows the opening of public records to public scrutiny as a deterrent against corruption.

Public servants accused of committing crimes are investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman created in 1988. Once probable cause is established, the Ombudsman files charges with the special anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan.

Fine, but despite these, the IMF observes that instruments for extracting key information for establishing bad governance are not standardized and therefore difficult to use in prosecution. The process could yield inconsistent and inefficient data analysis.

Walang katibayan. Walang kaso.

The IMF further explains that even in cases when data exists, information can be “siloed across multiple systems, which impairs the capability of decision-makers to understand the holistic picture of a public official’s risk profile.”

To overcome these limitations, the Fund proposed a new standardized risk index for public officials. It is called the Public Official Risk Index (PORI). The PORI will be developed by a three-pronged technology-driven approach.  The approach consists of: (1) an E-filing system for financial disclosure; (2) advanced data analytics for risk profiling; and (3) establishing a risk framework.

The first component establishes a link between a web-based platform where public officials file their financial reports and a data base of financial intelligence units, like the Philippines’ AMLA; tax authorities (i.e., the BIR and Customs); and other relevant agencies like the Commission on Audit. The BSP can also be involved with perhaps, a read-only access to supervised banks’ data base. The National ID system also comes handy.

Appropriate legislation will have to be delivered by Congress to empower this new approach. Walang taguan…

The second component is for engineers and data scientists. To make optimum use of data collected from the web-based reporting platform and other key databanks, it is crucial to employ machine-learning techniques to extract data from unconventional and unstructured sources like social media or news feeds. The algorithms will correlate news on specific persons and entities with data extracted from other sources, including the Register of Deeds and luxury car companies. Conflicts or potential conflicts of interest can also be established.

Finally, the risk framework. A statistical risk rating model can be set up for public servants. The Fund recommends the use of ordinal regression. Public servants may be grouped in terms of prominence of public office, risk of corruption, etc.

Public servants can be rated on a scale of 1 to 5, from least risky to most risky. This rating can be used to assign work and projects to reduce corruption especially in oversight agencies. This can also be used to flag risks right at the contract stage up to procurement and award. Any red flag should be investigated for any possible crack. Risk rating is expected to help enforce an anti-corruption policy. Data can also be accessed by the public pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.

Granted, the proposed system will only be as good as the people who will put it into harness.

But we have to start somewhere.

As Peter Eigen of Transparency International said, “people should be conscious that they can change a corrupt system.” Otherwise, it is us, the people, who will pay the price.