“This heightened appreciation of the urgency and the strategic benefits of a system wide digital transformation presents a great opportunity to shape up the overweight bureaucracy into a super system of public services”
The plan of the President Marcos Jr. government to transform the country’s bureaucracy to be “lean, efficient, and responsive” – qualities that are basic requisites of successful private enterprises – is a bold move that many administrations have tried to achieve tracing back to President Marcos Sr.
The circumstances of the global pandemic that pushed every sector of our society to harness digital technologies to survive this existential threat has highlighted the need for a new mindset that must be open to the disruptive nature of innovation and demands very short adoption timelines.
This heightened appreciation of the urgency and the strategic benefits of a system wide digital transformation presents a great opportunity to shape up the overweight bureaucracy into a super system of public services.
According to published statements by the Department of Budget Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, redundant or overlapping functions in the programs of agencies will be streamlined with the objective of “rightsizing” into a smaller but more agile operation.
All of us have experienced several frustrating, inconvenient hours, for some really bad instances, even days wasted trying to comply with permits, licenses, and just trying to access government services that are sadly not very service-oriented.
To be fair, there are agencies which have been successful in greatly improving their front-line interactions with the help of digital solutions.
Secretary Pangandaman said the functions of 187 government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) will be rationalized and restructured. Merging offices or even abolition are possibilities.
Based on initial estimates of the DBM, about two million government employees may be affected by the rightsizing initiative. Quite a human resource management challenge that may prove to be the most sensitive element if this pushes thru.
Government agencies and GOCC’s are created, and their functions mandated by law and will require new legislation from Congress for any restructuring, more so for any mergers and abolitions to happen.
Having this listed as a priority bill by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council this early will put this on the top of mind of legislators and send a strong signal to expedite its passage.
This is a complete contrast to the Duterte administrations direction to even expand the bureaucracy with new offices and the lackadaisical treatment of legislators on rightsizing bills filed since 2016.
How the administration’s super majority in Congress will respond to this push for systemic changes in the bureaucracy will be interesting.
It will be almost miraculous to see if more than two years of pandemic crisis had somehow instilled a more forward and developmental spirit of knowledge and technology driven nation building has emerged or if the agents of patronage politics that created, entrenched their influence, and used the bureaucracy for personal agendas, will still prevail.
Pangandaman said the savings will be significant and that more funds may be channeled to priority infrastructure projects, health care, social services, and strengthening the problematic agriculture sector.
Should 5 percent of government employees be affected, she said the equivalent savings will be P14.8 billion per year from personnel services. If you are a government employee, you might worry that your job may become part of those savings.
The Budget Secretary, however, assures that affected personnel will have the option to apply for new positions that will be created by the rightsizing bill and will have retooling programs in cooperation with the Civil Service Commission.
Those who choose to retire will be given retirement benefits.
Not covered by the rightsizing bill are government items in military, police, medical related positions, and public education related personnel.
The proposed rightsizing bill will be an important legislative initiative challenge that will test the political will of the President and the unity of the super majority in Congress.
With the speedy passage of this bill into law, the government will need the support of the private sector in harnessing the best and most secure digital technologies applicable to the performance of each government agencies’ role.
The time has come for our government institutions to take a more agile stance in anticipating the fast-evolving needs of its citizens who by themselves and by necessity must quickly adopt to every new challenge to their economic welfare. How we are surviving the pandemic proves this point.
Now it’s time for government to catch up with the demands of the people by shedding its fat, getting in shape, and become the empowering government we need to help us to economic recovery.