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Publication Detail
ISPPS WP 1999-05: Experiences, Insights, and Lessons Learned in Government

Experiences in the government service can both be fulfilling and frustrating, inspiring and depressing. As a high profile political appointee DILG Sec. Alunan was open to attacks from the opposition, the media, within the administration and even from party mates. Whether you do or don’t, you are damned either way. The syndicated media reports, usually written by Press Relations Agents sometimes in the guise of media reporters or desk editors were products of ‘envelopmental’ journalism. Bureaucratic tyranny was thorny. A case was his experience at the Department of Tourism (DOT). Sympathy strikes, work slowdowns, attacks in media and political interference and harassment were characteristics of such tyranny that reeked with corruption. At DILG, he was natural target for political combat being the President’s alter ego. Important lessons learned are: a) transformation and national redemption requires a people unified by a common vision and values, in solidarity with every social class and ethnic group, and working cohesively in teams to achieve desired results; and b) there were three types of government employees: performers, under performers, and non-performers – each with at least two sub-types, clean hands and dirty hands. There is a third type, the outright criminal whose number varies depending on where the power and money were situated. These categories were found in the Department of Tourism (DOT) and DILG. Attaining critical mass of good leaders and managers is necessary and of vital priority to bring about reforms or transformation. Government is under performing because there are few incentives to draw in good leaders and managers and to keep the bureaucracy properly motivated for the public good. There is a need to radically modify the compensation package, beginning with the President to be at rough parity with our private sector and civil servants abroad. We need a critical mass of good leaders and managers to transform government into an effective service delivery vehicle. That begins with a cultural transformation where self-interest is subordinate to national interest; where self-denial and merit are the recognized badges of honor, not ill-gotten power and wealth. To attain reform, good people to lead and manage are the crucial first step – to know where to go, what to do, and how to get there. As the ban gains adherents along the way, the followers must exude the same virtues and character of their leaders to attract more people to their just cause, to reach critical mass. Character is the key. In the bureaucracy, the paper work is notoriously voluminous. The endless paper trail deters, rather than enhances transparency. Despite the duplication and reproduction of forms for the files of all concerned, records are routinely mishandled rendering accountability difficult. Government is a virtual ghost town. There are ghost employees, ghost inventories, ghost payrolls, and ghost collections. There are semi-ghosts too, who underperform, undercollect and underdeliver. The revenue and budget leakage is tremendous, preventing any meaningful transformation program to take off and sustain flight. Our decimated budget leaves little room for maintenance, rendering capital acquisitions expensive in the short run. The government is littered with and burdened by unmaintained and inoperable equipment. Paper budgets without cash backing are useless. At DILG, around 70% of the Philippine National Police (PNP) budget was being retained by headquarters, and 30% was distributed to local commands. Despite attempts by Sec. Alunan to reverse the policy, the flows were still impeded by the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) inability to release budget allocations on time due to persistent revenue shortfalls. The PNP was, thus, vulnerable to graft and corruption, from private funders mostly racketeers in need of protection, in order to keep their operations moving. This can be effectively checked only by good budgeting and fiscal practices. Otherwise, gambling lords and even drug lords – some of whom are in public office cannot be deterred from funding the PNP. However, there are pinpoints of hope, the NGO community and emerging breed of caring public leaders among the local government units. The Galing Pook Awards attest to the growing culture of excellence at the local level. The same observation applies to the younger breed of public safety officers in the uniformed services.

UPLB Center for Strategic Planning and Policy Studies
Authors Keywords
Alunan, R.M. III; governance;
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