The FOI Research Team released the final paper to document the results of this research project. Entitled “Increasing People’s Access to Procurement Information Through the FOI Program: Assessing Bottlenecks, Gaps and Opportunities”, this research paper assesses how effective and efficient is using the FOI program of the Philippine government to access public contracting data.
Featuring case studies from the Department of Health, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Department of Transportation, the paper concludes that while there are challenges, there is opportunity to strengthen the FOI program so that it can become an effective means for people to get access to contracting data. At the same time, there is a need to look into proactive disclosure to enable efficient access to regularly requested contracting information.
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.
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).
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.
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:
What are the barriers that make the provision of contracting data difficult to FOI requesters?
What are the gaps in data management systems and agency processes that hinder the provision of contracting data to potential users?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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