Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda on Monday reminded government agencies to simplify government processes and reduce their documentary requirements first as a prerequisite to digitalizing their services.
Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, made the statement in remarks to the House Committee on Information and Communication Technology, which was tackling two measures he sponsored—House Bill 2963, or the E-Governance Act, and House Bill 2902, or the E-Government Act—both presidential priority bills mentioned in the 2022 State of the Nation Address.
Salceda warned that if processes remain complex and tedious for citizens accessing government services, efforts to digitalize government services “will merely migrate such inefficiencies.”
Salceda also said that “digitalization or electronic governance is not a magic word. It requires internal reform and efficiency. Digital inefficiency is still inefficiency.”
He cited issues such as government websites that are difficult to navigate, websites that are not privacy-secure, supposedly digitalized processes that still require face-to-face transactions such as TIN registration, and other supposedly electronic government services that remain inefficient, lengthy, complex, or requiring physical processes.
Salceda outlined five key principles before government agencies pursue digitalization.
“First, processes must be simplified. Complex processes with multiple leakages, overlaps, and inefficiencies should first be rationalized before digitalization. Otherwise, one will merely migrate such inefficiencies. Worse, because the digital space has a compounding effect, digitalization can multiply inefficiencies unless resolved at the process level first,” Salceda said. “Second, documentary requirements must be reduced. The cedula for example, no longer serves any intelligent purpose for government. Inthe Ease of Paying Taxes Act, we resolve another problem by merelyrequiring an invoice, instead of official receipts for goods andinvoices for services, to make VAT refunds easier, faster, and fullydigital.”
“Third, capacities should match demand in government processes.
Manpower and technological capacity should match the demand for theservice. I just came from a meeting of climate change experts recently, where I learned that a total of two people are in charge of
helping local governments, national government agencies, and otherorganizations prepare proposals to access global funds under the Green Climate Fund and other multilateral and bilateral sources for climate action. Clearly, rightsizing means not only shaving off bureaucratic fat, but also building bureaucratic muscle where it is needed.”
“Fourth, digitalization should focus on user experience. In Singapore, it takes the user just one office, one window, one day, to register a small business, even when records are forwarded to several agencies in charge of licensing, regulation, incentives, and others. It is notthat the back office processes were eliminated. It is just that the burden of processing is shifted from the client to the government offices.”
“He or she does not have to see what is going on behind the window. User experience must be the focus of government digitalization. Of course, this will also include digital aesthetics and design, something that government agencies still disregard to this day, but which has significant impacts on user behavior.”
Salceda also complained of “ugly or confusing government websites” which the solon said were “more complex and more expensive to maintain than college organization websites.”
“Fifth, government digitalization must be dynamic. What is “digital and modern” now may no longer be timely or relevant a year from now. As such, digitalization necessitates investments in continued learning and innovation. Government offices that seek to digitalize must be prepared to accept process innovation and sometimes disruption as part of the digital territory,” Salceda said.
Salceda also suggested an Online Government Services Scorecard be created by the Department of Information and Communication Technology along with the Anti-Red Tape Authority and the Department of Interior and Local Government to measure the strengths and weaknesses of= frontline digital processes of government agencies.
Salceda said that the ultimate aim of digitalization of governance was to reduce “irritating citizen burdens” such as the cedula or community tax, lengthy police and NBI clearance processes, and time-consuming business registration
“If we can do these things and carry out these principles, we can easily move towards one-day business registration, which would make doing business in the Philippines much easier.”
“Let us shift the burden of paying taxes, getting police clearances, and registering businesses from diligent small businesses and honest citizens, to government offices. Anyway, let us remember that these people pay taxes and charges so that we do our jobs. They pay taxes and fees specifically for these services, too. So, they deserve simple, easy, fast, and accessible processes.”