Developing a Corruption-intolerant Society

What is the project about?

political rally Anti-corruption is the main thrust of the current administration of the Philippine Government. (Photo: Government of the Philippines)

Despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the Philippines is perceived as one of the most corrupt nations in the Asia Pacific. Even while it strives to fight corruption in the public and private sectors, its consistently poor ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index—it ranked 101 out of 168 countries in 2016—reveals how trust in the government is undermined by graft and corruption. In fact, the country's public finance management and its public service delivery remain vulnerable to corrupt practices and red tape. A 2014 report by the Global Financial Integrity revealed that billions of dollars in tax revenue are lost to corrupt transactions in the Philippines every year; on some years, government earnings lost to corruption was equivalent to 10-20 percent of the national budget.

It is possible to argue that corruption is endemic throughout the Philippine public finance system. Irregularity has long been affixed with revenue generation, as regressive practices and perpetual collusion between tax collectors and big businesses have merely widened the level of disparity between the rich and the poor. Un-programmed appropriations in the national budget – including the Priority Development Assistance Funds, Special Purpose Funds, and Intelligence Funds – have been widely viewed as legal sources of funding for corruption. Public expenditure has been highly vulnerable to corruption, as unnecessary, excessive, and unconscionable spending being a commonality.

In 2012, UNDP launched Developing a Corruption Intolerant Society, a project with the overall goal of checking corruption in governance through increased citizen participation in monitoring government irregularities.

Since then, and together with a loose coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs), we have continued to support citizens initiatives that promote integrity, accountability and transparency in the public finance sector, especially at the local level. Using the human rights-based approach, we have looked at public finance holistically, where each sub-sector is interrelated and linked to one other. From revenue generation to debt management, we have supported initiatives that increased awareness, expanded capacities, and supported collective actions of citizens, especially among women and indigenous people, on the following:

  • Linkages (institutional relationships & interfaces) of the different sub-sectors in public finance; and
  • Leakages (corruption, inefficiencies) within the sector that may create an impact on the quality of life of our communities.

Specifically, this project aimed to mitigate corruption in governance through increased citizen participation in public finance processes. However, in order to combat corruption effectively, the project had to reconceptualize the common understanding of public finance closer to that suggested by its literal definition. In this respect, public finance has to be viewed more than just the responsibility of government to manage the flow of resources for the attainment of public objectives. Rather, public finance has to also recognise the responsibility of citizens to engage and monitor financial processes, so that they themselves are able to hold government officials accountable to the public interest. It is through this democratic practice of participatory public finance that the values of transparency and accountability can be upheld, and the quality of democratic governance can be improved.

To achieve this, the idea that Public Finance is exclusive for financial experts, economists and academicians must be dismantled. UNDP has worked towards this by strengthening the capacities of the citizens and organized groups to perform their oversight roles in every stage of the public finance system, with active participation of youth, women, and indigenous peoples.  It has continued to support the Civil Service Commission in capacitating CSOs to monitor the implementation of the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA) to improve delivery of government front line services.

More formally, the project intends to do the following: 

  • Integrate the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) into government legislation, policies and plans

  • Enhance civil society engagement in the fight against corruption

  • Promote environmental integrity and accountability

What have we accomplished so far?

From 2012 to 2016, the project has:

  • Developed the Report Card Survey (RCS), which provides feedback on the satisfaction of people with the quality, adequacy and efficiency of government service. The programme also trained government officials and staff of the Civil Service Commission to use the RCS and monitor government agencies’ compliance to Republic Act 9485, or Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007.

  • Worked for the integration and implementation of the UNCAC in all government agencies. In 2014, Executive Order 117 was signed, creating an inter-agency committee to oversee the review, implementation and monitoring of the UNCAC within government agencies. Two key institutions—the Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic and Development Authority—were among the first commit to integrating UNCAC in their policies and plans.

  • Provided documentation services to those affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Having lost personal property during the to the typhoon, including crucial proof of identity, many of the affected could not avail of much-needed government aid, which required valid IDs. The project set up quick-action one-stop shops in Leyte for three government agencies that issue valid IDs: the National Statistics Office, Philippine Postal Corporation, and Commission on Elections. This effort helped facilitate post-Yolanda Recovery and Reconstruction efforts.

  • Launched the National Solid Waste Management Compliance Program, which monitors local governments' compliance to RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. With recommendations from concerned government agencies and civil society organizations, the Environmental Ombudsman can now prosecute agencies, officials and employees violating RA 9003.

  • Introduced Government Watch (G-Watch) in six sites. G-Watch is an initiative that teaches and engages citizens to monitor local government spending on textbooks, schoolbuildings and medicines, and to check the progress on the construction of public infrastructures such as roads and bridges

  • Partnered with the Office of the Ombudsman for the Integrity Caravan, a series of lectures, forums and university tours to encourage citizen engagement in the programme's anti-corruption campaign

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