FOI Research Team Publishes AID FOI Tool

The FOI Research Team, in collaboration with the FOI Project Management Office of the Government of the Philippines, released the latest version of the Assessing Information Disclosure Practices for FOI Compliance (AID-FOI) Tool.

The tool, developed with funding support from HIVOS, is used to assess whether the conditions within an agency are appropriate for FOI mechanisms to be effective. It assesses whether the agency possesses the critical elements that will enable it to perform proactive disclosure of agency data. For purposes of the assessment, the AID-FOI Tool draws heavily from the work of the Carter Center’s Rule of Law Program that specifies a set of indicators to assess FOI implementation. These indicators revolve around five essential components, namely, leadership, rules, systems, resources, and monitoring. To access the file, go to the Reports tab in this website.

How is the Philippines’ Department of Health providing access to contracting data?

As the main health agency in the Philippines, DOH is responsible for making quality basic health services available to every Filipino. It is also mandated to enforce standards and regulations in the provision of health goods and services. Although health services were devolved with the passage of the Local Government Code in 1991, DOH remains “the leader, enabler, standard-setter (or regulator/enforcer of standards/regulation) for health services planning and service provision and delivery, policymaker, health advocate, resource center, mobilizer, and technical adviser as well as administrator of regional and special hospitals” (Cuenca 2018[1]).

As part of its efforts to promote transparency, DOH proactively publishes several datasets on its website. This includes targets and accomplishments, a list and status of programs, projects, and activities, including its status, and procurement-related reports. However, only documents related to procurement planning are published proactively. Information about awarded contracts, the names of selected contractors or the status of contract accomplishments is not published on the DOH website. Given this situation, can we use the Freedom of Information program of the Philippine government to access public contracting data?

Our research shows that there are significant barriers to providing contracting information through the FOI program. If you are interested to know what are these barriers, please click on this link.


[1] https://pidswebs.pids.gov.ph/CDN/PUBLICATIONS/pidsdps1836.pdf

Research Team Publishes Department of Transportation Case Study on FOI

Step Up Consulting, with the support of HIVOS, and in partnership with the FOI – Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) of the GOP, conducted a research in 2019 to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the barriers that make the provision of contracting data difficult to FOI requesters?
  2. What are the gaps in data management systems and agency processes that hinder the provision of contracting data to potential users?
  3. What opportunities are available to improve people’s access to contracting data using the FOI mechanism?

One of the agencies selected for the case study research is the Department of Transportation (DOTr). The DOTr was selected because it is one of the top 10 agencies with the largest amount of budget and one of the top 10 agencies with the greatest number of FOI requests. 

The research has identified five major challenges in making access to contracting data through the FOI program effective and efficient; (1) different agencies within the department are working in silos, (2) a comprehensive data inventory is not in place, and (3) absence of a centralized database , (4) Lack of a clear legal mandate and guidelines in the disclosure of contracting data, and (5) apprehension to disclose contracts.

The DOTr case study highlights at least three areas that are required for a successful FOI program – (1) clear and unambiguous guidelines, (2) a working data management system that serves the FOI function; and (3) an organizational culture that encourages transparency and accountability. 

If you want to read the full report, please click here.

DPWH Case Study on FOI

One of the agencies that the research focused on was the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).  DWPH functions as the Government of the Philippines’ engineering and construction arm tasked to ensuring the safety of all infrastructure facilities and securing for all public works and highways the highest efficiency and quality in construction. As a result of the decentralisation reform, DPWH is responsible to plan,  design, construct and maintain public infrastructure, especially national highways, flood control and water resources systems, and other public works in accordance with national development objectives.

DPWH is committed to transparency. It is one of the agencies that has been recognised annually by the FOI-PMO as the top-performing agency in the implementation of the Freedom of Information mandate.  DPWH also proactively publishes crucial information related to open contracting, including the annual procurement plan of the national office and its regional offices, as well as the status of the implementation of contracted works.

For a downloadable copy of the study, please click here.

FOI Research Team Presents in Annual FOI Summit

FOI session on the AID-FOI Tool (Image courtesy of FOI-PMO)

To celebrate the the third year of implementation of the Executive Order operationalizing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Program, the FOI – Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) held its annual FREEDOM OF INFORMATION SUMMIT with the theme,“Weaving the Narrative of Good Governance and Public Participation through Access to Information.”  The summit was held at Manila Peninsula Hotel on 11 December 2019.

The event gathered over 200 representatives from national and local governments, civil society organizations, the media, the academe, the private sector, and development partners who actively supported open government and transparency initiatives.

Mr. Michael Canares, FOI research lead facilitated the session on “Assessing Information Disclosure Practices”, using the experience of the Philippines in using the Assessing Information Disclosure Practices for FOI Compliance (AID-FOI Tool). He was joined by Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry of the Information Commissioners Office of Scotland, Mr. Andro Santiago, Chief of the Stakeholders Management Section of the Department of Public Works and Highways, and April Rhea Molina of the Department of Health.

FOI Research Team Attends Data Security Training

Step Up Research Manager, Jean Celeste Paredes, and FOI-Research Associate attends the Outcome Harvesting Workshop and Data Security training organized by HIVOS last October 15-17, 2019 at the Bellevue Hotel, Ortigas.  She was joined by FOI-Research partner from the Freedom of Information Project Management Office, Ms. Michelle Manza. The activity is part of the series of activities that HIVOS offer to its partners in the Philippines.

Outcome Harvesting is an evaluation approach in which evaluators, grantmakers, managers and staff identify, formulate, verify, analyse and interpret ‘outcomes’ in programming contexts where relations of cause and effect are not fully understood. Through Outcome Harvesting, organizations collect (“harvest”) evidence of what has changed (“outcomes”) for HIVOS grantees, and then, working backwards, determine whether and how HIVOS interventions (grant allocation and linking and learning) have contributed to these changes.

On the other hand, the Digital Security Training aims to introduce and understand the communications model as a framework for digital security and to identify areas how each partner, including Step Up Consulting, can strengthen digital security within each  organization.

The training was attended by HIVOS partners in the Philippines, including LayerTech LabsBantay KitaCODE-NGO, among others.

103 National Government Agencies Apply the AID-FOI Tool

DIscussions during the AID-FOI Tool Rollout. (Photo Courtesy of PCOO)

The Assessing Information Disclosure Practices For FOI Compliance, otherwise known as the AID-FOI tool was developed through the FOI Research Project in coordination with the FOI Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) of the Philippine government. Since July 2019, the FOI-PMO has been actively orientating the national government agencies, state universities and colleges, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and local water districts on how to use the tool in assessing their systems, values, and practices in information disclosure to help them strategize better in the implementation of FOI.

Mr. Michael Canares, research lead of the FOI Research Project was very pleased with the most recent outcome where 103 government agencies have already submitted the AID-FOI tool. FOI-PMO staff reported that the agencies appreciated the tool because it allows them to identify weaknesses in their data disclosure practices that they need to improve or strengthen in order to ensure successful FOI implementation.

The FOI-PMO will continue to advocate for the use of the tool and monitor submission in the upcoming months. The results will also be analysed by the research team to inform the research report which will be presented in the first quarter of 2020.

For the draft copy of the AID-FOI tool, please click on this link – https://foiresearchcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/aid-foi-tool-first-roll-out-draft.pdf

Research Team Conducts Validation Workshop with Pilot Agencies

The research team conducted a validation workshop with pilot agencies for the FOI Research Project last June 14 2019 at the B Hotel in Quezon City. The validation workshop intended to discuss the findings of the fieldwork that was conducted over the month of May to early June 2019 that sought to capture data management practices of the three departments selected for this study – the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health, and Department of Transportation.

The workshop also intended to field-test the Assessing Information Disclosure Practices for FOI Compliance (AID-FOI) tool that was developed by the research team to be able to understand better information disclosure practices of national government agencies as a way of assessing gaps in performance as well as identifying potential areas for strengthening.

The workshop was attended by the FOI teams of the three agencies as well as by representatives of the FOI Project Management Office of the PCOO.

FOI Research Lead Presents Initial Findings at the FOI MidYear Conference

Michael Canares, FOI Research Lead presents the initial findings of the FOI research in the 2019 FOI Midyear Conference held at Jen Hotel, Manila, on 26 June 2019. He presented the findings in a session entitled “Increasing People’s Access to Information: Assessing Bottlenecks, Identifying Gaps, and Forecasting Opportunities”. He was joined by the following speakers:

a. ANDRO V. SANTIAGO, Chief, Stakeholders Affairs Division,
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
b. VIVIEN SUERTE-CORTEZ, Program Manager, Hivos

For a copy of his presentation during the forum, please click here – https://foiresearchcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/presentation-slides-foi-forum-26-june-2019-1.pdf

Team Conducts Research Planning with PCOO

The FOI Research Team conducts forward planning with the FOI Project Management Office of the PCOO in order to define questions of interest, select agencies where the case study approach will be implemented, and assign tasks for fieldwork. The forward planning was conducted last March 2019 at Astoria Greenbelt, Makati, Philippines.

As a result, the following agencies were selected as case studies for this research:

  1. Department of Public Works and Highways
  2. Department of Health
  3. Department of Transportation

The team used four criteria to select the agencies and these are as follows:
a. The agency must be one of the top 10 agencies in terms of number of FOI requests received.
b. It must be an agency that delivers direct services to people
c. The agency must be one of the top 10 spenders of the whole of government
d. The agency must have a functioning FOI request and response system

Based on statistics kept by the FOI PMO, as of December 2018, only 34% of a total of 939 covered agencies submitted data inventories, 49% submitted FOI manuals indicating operationalization of the EO at the agency level, while 33% submitted FOI summary reports indicating the number of requests received and responded to. It must be noted, however, that the large bulk of non-compliance are local water districts constituting 55% of the total number of covered agencies.

Among national government agencies, 100% were able to comply with the preparation of FOI manuals, 75% were able to submit data inventories, and 72% have submitted FOI summary reports.  The Philippine Statistics Authority topped as the agency with the most number of requests, followed by key service delivery agencies like the Department of Health (2nd place), the Department of Transportation (3rd place), the Department of Public Works and Highways (5th place), and the Department of Education (7th place).  Others on the list are the Department of Budget and Management (4th place), and the DILG (6th place). Interestingly enough,legal documents, including contracts, top the list of most requested information in 2018.

Among these agencies, the DPWH, DOH, DepED, and DOTr are among the top government spenders, largely because of the nature of the services that they provide to people. DPWH and DOH are among the agencies with a highly functioning FOI system.

In the next four months, an in depth study of these agencies will be conducted and case study reports will be made available soon.