ISSN 2330-717X

An Unsought Counsel On Governance to Incoming Philippine Administration – Analysis

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Introduction

Gaining a huge mandate of more than 31 million votes in the May 2022 national election, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., officially assumes the Office of the President of the Philippines on 30 June 2022. Voted into power by almost 59% of Filipinos (both domestic and overseas) people as against his closest rival who measly obtained nearly 28% of all votes cast, was a clear sign that 3/5 of the people have placed their hope and aspiration to the new administration specifically on the issue of good and effective governance, among others. 

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In as much as the indicators of good governance, particularly those identified by World Bank’s World Governance Indicators (WGI), have broad coverage – voice and accountability; political stability and absence of violence/terrorism; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law; and control of corruption – the paper will primarily focus largely on the country’s administrative system or the system of public administration considering that at the core of public administration is good governance.

 With the rising demands of the populace from the government for better education, high quality general welfare like health, housing, and safety, infrastructures, and social order, government has been bereft of available resources and effective and efficient mechanisms to deliver pressing public goods and services to the people. 

Solving complex problems that cut across social, political, and economic boundaries, new approaches are needed. Government needs to become more holistic, working towards greater integration across the public sector. Holistic governance incorporates internal structures of government, rules, standards, and norms of behaviour of civil servants. Achieving this requires that government does not only provide public services and enforce laws but also changes cultures.

This paper is a brief exposition of holistic governance – its concept, intents and purposes, and strategies in advancing its institutionalization to address issues of good and effective governance, and engender effective exercise of state’s power and authority towards the mitigation of peoples’ socio-economic-and political problems.

The concept 

The British scholar Perri 6 (1) was the first who advocated the concept of “holistic government” in 1997 in his book Holistic Government. Departmental fragmentation is the key problem that holistic governance wants to address, and coordination and integration of the related departments seems to be the answer. Holistic governance thus incorporates internal structures, rules, standards, and norms of government. 

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Perri 6 argues that in order to avoid governance fragmentation derived from functional divisions, government should be integrated across public sector (holistic), avoiding problems from occurring rather than curing them (preventive), focused on persuasion and information sharing rather than coercion and command (culture-changing), and directed on outcomes and not on measures of activity (results-oriented). Hence, government’s accountability mechanisms are aimed at ensuring that public servants’ behaviour lead to long-term organizational success and realizing efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services.  

Perri 6 together with his associates expanded the concept of holistic government to holistic governance. In their book, Towards Holistic Governance: The New Reform Agenda (6 et.al. 2002), a paradigmatic switch emerges with the change of approach from “public affairs” to “the public” referring to citizens, taxpayers, and clients.  The former refers to traditional bureaucratic paradigm of Max Weber. It is a mechanistic view of organization which prevailed before the 1980s embodying the principles of Weberian bureaucracy, namely: hierarchy of authority, salaried careers, specialization and technical qualification, and written rules.

While on one hand, New Public Management (NPM), a related approach, emphasizes professional management, performance, benchmarking, competition, market-orientation, and decentralization. It is an effort to make the public service more “businesslike” and to improve its efficiency by using private sector management models; citizens are viewed as “customers” and public servants are regarded as public managers. On the other hand, holistic governance tended not simply to provide more opportunities for citizen engagement but also to place a heavier weight on the role of enterprises, especially the rising internet enterprises, in the digital government context (Emerson et.al. 2011). 

The advancement of information technology makes e-government an inevitable governing option. Public e-services and projects are carried out within the framework of holistic governance. (Felix, R., et.al. 2017). Among its key features is laying emphasis on the unique role of governments which provide information, data, aggregation processes, and other policy tools in an attempt to empower enterprises to deliver public services (Hardi and Buti 2012). 

Along these lines, holistic governance uses coordination, integration and responsibility as mechanism, utilizes information technology to integrate different levels of governance, function of governance, public-private co-operation and information system organically, increasingly facilitates the process from decentralized to centralized, from parts to the whole, and from fragmentation to integration. 

The integration of government functions needs not only an integrating mechanism but also a changing of values structure in government operation. These values that include: integrity, accountability, service, equity, innovation, teamwork, excellence, honesty, commitment, quality, openness, communication, recognition, trust, effectiveness, and leadership (Kernaghan et al, 2000, p. 269). These organizational values are dynamic, interactive, forward-looking, and active in nature. Cultivating these values and making them the backbone of governmental operation demands a different breed of civil servant. 

Only when the idea of holistic governance enters civil servants’ blood stream and integrated operations become natural can the success of holistic governance be achieved (Richards and Kavanagh 2000, p. 9). Gawthrop (1998) further asserts that administrators should have strong democratic and ethical convictions, deep belief in the superior values of democracy, and the moral vision of democracy (p. 24). And so, it is evident that political leadership will play the most important role in achieving the momentum that the holistic governance ideal demands.

The Philippine bureaucracy challenge

Historically, the structure of the Philippine government has been notoriously fragmented and disparate. Reorganization or administrative reform has been a continuing agenda of the national government to address this problem. It is the traditional response to perceived inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and irresponsiveness of the bureaucracy. Practically, all elected presidents of the country have reorganized the government one way or the other. 

Despite the promise of better delivery system of public goods and services to the people through changes in the functions, structures, and management of agencies within the executive branch of government, reorganization has created more administrative dysfunctions. These have been manifested through duplication and overlapping of functions, red tape, and administrative inefficiency. The bureaucratic pathologies do not only debilitate the capacity of government to respond to the people’s growing needs and demands. It also erodes, eventually, the credibility and legitimacy of government as a political institution tasked to safeguard and serve the interests of the people. 

Reyes (1993, p. 251) affirms that the insignificant impact of reorganization is due to its narrow focus on the “internal dynamics of structure and on functions mainly addressed to central office operations” as well as non-recognition of the participation of the client system thus exposing reorganization to “political interference reminiscent of the patronage system.” He further says that that the bureaucracy should veer away from inward-looking organizational measures and adopt outward-looking strategies which involve other sectors of society in the delivery of services. 

The prevalence of political patronage impedes the positive development and institutionalization of the culture of merit in Philippine bureaucracy. (2) Despite the technological inputs to management processes, often resulting in more controls imposed on and by the bureaucratic system, patronage continues to flourish. Patronage de-motivates when it is utilized in the recruitment of public personnel. It becomes worse when it becomes the deciding factor in cases of promotion inasmuch as civil service personnel look at promotion as an important aspect in career advancement in government. More often than not, political interference is the major and critical single factor identified as interfering with promotion, hence, career progression.

Civil service employees, especially the rank and file, have accepted the reality that the lack of required educational qualifications and paucity of training and educational opportunities are not impediments to enter government service. Apparently, a combination of poor or low educational preparation and unclear career paths has constrained the professionalization of public organizations. 

On the other hand, for the professional and technical categories, a definite route towards getting a career in government is through performance with patronage. The common practice of political intervention is abetted by the regularity of changes in the political leadership. This means that after each election, political debts have to be paid. Given the principles of political neutrality and security of tenure, the bureaucracy in due time will be dominated by misfits and undesirables. 

In pursuit of merit, competence, and performance, the CSC raised the passing grade in examinations for entry to the government service. However, shortly after implementing the policy, Republic Act 6850 was passed in February 1990 which provides government employees under temporary appointment status with at least seven (7) years of efficient service is given not only the civil service eligibility but permanency as well.  Obviously, this does not enhance merit recruitment but a reinforcement of patronage. It is unfair to the civil service eligibles who had to prove themselves qualified by examination and not by length of service.

Agenda in nurturing holistic governance

The bureaucracy remains beset with a long list of complex administrative dysfunctions, from graft and corruption, red tape, incompetence, inefficiency, and centralization to political patronage and spoils system to bureaucratic size. The dysfunctionality of the Philippine system of government is much related to politics as the condition of the permanent bureaucracy. 

Furthermore, the absence of a comprehensive and detailed framework by which administrative problems are to be prioritized and analyzed whereby reforms can be put in place more systematically and consistently contribute to the continuing malaise in the bureaucracy (Reyes 1994).

In the Philippines, almost all departments under the executive branch of government are basically functional divisions. Although the sectoral grouping of departments augments specialization and knowledge base of the department, it ignores the cross boundaries issues and concerns. Worst, it entails the risk of problems and individuals being “dumped” by one department onto another (6, 1997, p. 31).

Engaging towards holistic governance may not be easy and will take time given the several decades of bureaucratic impairment. Nonetheless, it is better to start work on the reforms on the bureaucracy as soon as possible under the next administration and beyond to be able to achieve better delivery of public services and goods to the people. Due to limitation of space, this part of the paper succinctly deliberates on merely three (3) fundamental bureaucratic proposals in accordance with holistic governance, namely on: outcome-based departments; integration of budget; and information systems.

Outcome-based departments

In as much as there are only 13 core functional departments – home or interior affairs, foreign affairs, finance, economic affairs, defense, education, justice, transportation, labor, agriculture, culture, environment, and social security – the country has 23 Departments. This is twice as many as the core. It is therefore suggested to shift from governing by functions to outcome-focused departments. For example, in a poverty alleviation program, power and responsibility of the Department of Labour and Employment may be increased while other Departments’ power related to the former is reduced or recalibrated to operate the whole range of functions in support of housing, family policy, public health, public information, cultural policy, crime and so on. In line with holistic governance, public management is built largely around the notion of performance and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public institutions.

While outcome-based departments would not resolve all problems of inconsistency and coordination it would be a major achievement in improving the efficient utilization of financial, administrative, and technological resources by focusing on key national or local problems. 

On government negotiated contracts either internally or externally, to be delivered to the public, have to be specifically defined in outcome terms, allowing providers more flexibility to define the service activities to achieve this. Exceptions, however may be made for some contracts which are forged for experimental purposes or pilot projects. These type of trial contracts may have a very long-time scale and outcomes would be impossible to quantify and results are uncertain. In this case, outcome contracts will not be appropriate.

Integration of budget

Similarly, budgets need to be organised not by functions but around outcomes and geographical areas, right down to the level of the local government units (LGUs) to enable that services can be designed in the most effective manner, closely focusing on key social groups in each area, especially targeting vulnerable groups – elderly, children, women, minorities, and persons with disabilities either physically or psychologically challenged or both.

Holistic budgeting by geographical area will decentralise much of bringing together important information and intelligence and give much greater financial scope to local purchasing agencies to design and strategize services as they see suitable for local development. In this situation, it will be possible to establish more downward accountability and transparency to citizens and service users. On the part of the national government, central systems of oversight, audit and policy review will then be its fundamental concern, i.e., concentrating on monitoring and evaluation, identifying lessons on effectiveness and value for money and disseminating best practice from local innovation.

Finally, resources from these holistic budgets for outcome-based contracts should be much more open to competition between departments and other tiers of government such as local government, consortia, partnerships and the private sector.

Integrating budgets can be done in multiple ways. Schemes have been developed for instance which will overcome the division between health service and social security for elderly people (Leat and 6 1997). These examples can be built on in fields such as homelessness to overcome the divisions between different benefits and housing budgets. 

Information systems

It becomes imperative to integrate the “front-end” of government or the parts of government that deal with the citizens for a holistic governance to be realized. In as much as “one-stop shops” (OSSs) have stemmed within certain tiers of government, at the LGU level or field offices of central government, it is essential now that they have to go much further.

OSSs or offices that offer multiple public services or good should become the foremost means by which the public deals with government, both physically and electronically, through a common interface. This does not only simplify the process of dealing with government as well as for governments’ customers but also provide convenience and efficiency to citizens. To make systems more comprehensible and extensive, OSSs are to be organised around life events which trigger people’s need for services like certificates of birth, marriage, or death, funeral service, becoming unemployed, losing a home, legal adoption, annulment of marriage, or life and non-life insurance, etc. 

This could be done online or by using a computer system that would bring to citizens’ attention all the services available and those that they might help them. Eventually, the functions and services that make up today’s public sector will become “back offices” and “content providers” for these one-stop shops. 

Over time, they will operate and be managed in more and more integrated ways. Because these systems will handle very large volumes of personal information about individuals, they will be subject to confidentiality codes on the handling of personal information to safeguard and protect identities of individuals and uphold their rights to privacy. 

In the course of the aforesaid actionable proposals, it is crucial to re-centralise some tasks, such as overall goal-setting, gauging and measuring outcomes and agreeing on budgets. Others will need to be decentralised, such as information and data gathering, initiative and innovation in programme design and local project output delivery, and local democratic accountability to users and the public.

Conclusion

As the new administration moves in to lead the country in the next six (6) years, governance becomes is a crucial issue. The opportunity to shift governance from extensive fragmentation and functional focus to integration has never before so great. Holistic governance intends to accomplish the necessary integration among government’s various hierarchies and departments as well as that among public-private departments to form the network structure of service-oriented government. It constructs a three-dimensional integration model through the integration of governance hierarchy, the integration of governance functions and the integration between public and private departments (Tang R. and Zhao G. 2012). 

The new agenda for government for the next six (6) years and beyond is clear. At the heart of holistic governance is the efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services through a better bureaucratic structure and system. It takes the solution of peoples’ livelihood as the core. While upholding the value of efficiency, it underscores the values of justice, fairness and responsibility, civil rights, popular sovereignty and public interest to fully demonstrate the publicity of public administration.

Akin to other advocacies and movements, holistic governance needs political champions at every level – national, regional, and local government. Turning around the Philippine bureaucracy into the direction of public service that embraces cultures of holism, culture change and outcome-orientation is indeed challenging. Throughout the civil service, agencies, local government, as well as from the public sector professions, leaders are needed to carry forward the program of holistic governance.

If bureaucratic transformation is to be realized, politicians, policy-makers, and bureaucrats have to learn to participate actively in the process of integration, to give up some political and organizational interests, and to provide and mobilize more resources to appropriate departments, agencies, and offices. Only when these are fulfilled can reformers, campaigners, and champions talk seriously of a government that “works.”

Notes:

  1. Perri 6 is a British social scientist. He changed his name from David Ashworth to Perri 6 in 1983. 
  2. For a historical background on the roots of political patronage and the spoils system in the civil service see Endriga 1985 (see References below).

References:

6 Perri. (1997). Holistic Government. London: Demos.

6 Perri, Leat, D. Seltzer, K. & Stoker, G. (2002). Towards Holistic Governance: The New Reform Agenda. New York: Palgrave.

Emerson, K., Nabatchi, T., & Balogh, S. (2011).  An integrative framework for 

collaborative governance. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 22 (1). 1

1–29. 

Endriga, J.N. (1985) Stability and change: civil service in the Philippines, Philippine Journal of Public Administration29 (2), 132-154.

Felix, R., Rauschnabel, & P.A., Hinsch, C. (2017) Elements of strategic social media marketing: A holistic framework. Journal of Business Research 70, 118–126.

Gawthrop, L.C (1998). Public Service and Democracy: Ethical Imperatives for the 21st Century  London: Chatham House Publications.

Hardi, P. and Buti, K. (2012). Corporate governance variables: Lessons from a holistic approach to Central-Eastern European practice. Corporate Governance. International Journal of Business in Society 12 (1) 101–117. 

Kernaghan, K., Marson, B., & Borins, S. (2000). The New Public Organization. Toronto: The Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).

Leat, D. and 6 P. (1997). Holding Back the Years: How Britain Can Grow Old Better in the

Twenty First Century, Demos, London.

Reyes, D.R. (1993). Tensions in the troubled bureaucracy: reform initiatives in public organizations and service delivery systems, Philippine Journal of Public Administration 37 (3). Philippines: University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) Press.

Reyes, D.R. (1994). Reinventing government and bureaucracy in the Philippines: old themes and a new image, Philippine Journal  of Public Administration 38 (2). Philippines: UP-NCPAG.

Richard, D. & Kavanagh, D. (2000). Can Joined-Up Government Be A Reality? A Case Study of the British Labour Government 1997-2000. Paper presented in Australian Political Studies Association 2000 Conference, October 4-6. Canberra: The Australian National University.

Tang, R. & Zhao, G. (2012). The Structural Logic of the Holistic Governance and Its Respond to Political Fragmentation. Proceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Public Management (ICPM 2012). Available from < https://www.atlantis-press.com/proceedings/icpm-12/2897>

Rizal G. Buendia

Rizal G. Buendia, Independent political analyst in Southeast Asian governance based in England and Wales, UK. Philippine Country Expert of the Global V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Former Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK and former Associate Professor and Chair, Political Science Department, De La Salle University-Manila, Philippines.

One thought on “An Unsought Counsel On Governance to Incoming Philippine Administration – Analysis

  • June 17, 2022 at 5:59 pm
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    Just us there are bad cholesterol and good cholesterol, there are also bad and good corruption, when looking at standard of living.

    For example,

    A) it would NOT be corruption if 1) government has option for businesses to pay a government expedite fee to cut the red tape, and then 2) government takes the money received from the expedite fees and pays bonuses to the government employees;

    B) it would be corruption if businesses pay the government employees directly to cut the red tape.

    However, from a macro perspective, both A) and B) have the same net economic result.

    When corruption is defined as giving something of value to influence a government decision maker, then yes, we do have a lot of corruption in the US, under the guise of lobbying.

    Reply

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