Civil society gets involved in monitoring DepED’s expenditure programs

DAVAO CITY — The Philippines-Australia Public Financial Management Program (PFMP) is assisting the Department of Education (DepED) through a 14-month project called “Civil Society and Third Party Engagement in Monitoring DepED’s Expenditure Programs.” The project has a technical assistance component to help DepED clarify its policy framework for civil society organizations’ (CSOs) engagement in public expenditure activities and monitoring, and direct support to CSOs to pilot models of CSO engagement. The Government Watch (G-Watch) of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) has been contracted to coordinate the involvement of other CSOs in piloting specific monitoring approaches and activities. In addition, G-Watch will help consolidate and develop orientation and capacity building materials for CSOs and DepED units.

“This project is a testament to PFMP’s commitment to promote transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. It is vital that CSOs and government agencies be able to establish rapport, and come together to engage citizens in participating in public bidding activities, and monitoring big expenditure projects such as those in DepED,” said PFMP Governance Adviser Basile Gilbert.

“We are doing this exercise to preserve and maintain the integrity of DepED. Our goal is to enhance transparency in our procurement process until the delivery stage and CSOs are part of it every step of the way,” said DepED Director for Procurement Service Aida N. Carpentero. She added that the involvement of PFMP in the project supports the government’s Procurement Reform Act RA 9184, which covers the entire procurement process from planning to contract implementation, including payments.

In order to better determine the entry points for citizens and CSOs involvement with DepED, the Department needed to review and improve its own procedures of contract implementation and inspection of goods during the procurement process. PFMP assisted DepED in the process of reviewing existing contract management and inspection procedures for four big ticket items being procured by DepED: school furniture, math and science equipment, textbooks and computer packages. These efforts and the involvement of citizens in the process will contribute to safeguard the integrity of the procurement process as part of a sound public financial management system. The newly established Contract Implementation and Inspection Protocols (CIIP) will be formalized in DepEd through the issuance of a Department Order. The CIIPs aim to ensure that goods and services are delivered in a timely manner and in accordance with the desired quality standards for the benefit of Filipino school children.

“Procurement is based on value for money. It is a very delicate task. Each stakeholder should be held accountable because we are spending taxpayers’ money,” said Dir. Carpentero. She explained that under the Constitution, citizens are empowered to observe and participate in the efficient delivery of public services. DepED is one of the key government agencies recognizing the importance of CSO participation in the procurement and delivery process and are spearheading efforts to institutionalise citizen participation in procurement from the central office to school level.

Establishing CSO Engagement at the Division Level

A briefing-orientation for DepED Division representatives and local CSOs was recently held in Samal, Davao as part of capacity building efforts to engage both DepED Division personnel and local CSOs to focus on school based monitoring. The “local hubs” will act as a facilitator and coordinator of school-based monitoring of DepED’s contract implementation. In addition, the hubs will act as a repository of monitoring tools, and as a source of information and feedback. They are likewise encouraged to take an active part in checking the acceptance and delivery of the school items, and to ensure that they pass the DepED’s strict technical specifications and quality standards.

The local hubs will initially be established in Region XI (Davao City, Samal Island Garden City) and CARAGA (Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur).

The hubs will engage in several activities such as: mapping the schools to be monitored, inform members of the school-based monitoring teams (SBMTs), conduct training of SBMTs, and respond to feedback. Conduct of a problem-solving session and submission of a monitoring report will feed into a consolidated narrative of their findings.

The inclusion of CSO/Third Party engagement in monitoring public expenditure falls under the DepED’s new Procurement Planning and Management Division (PPMD) in the Procurement Service. The PPMD’s core functions include providing technical assistance to the DepEd entities responsible for procuring facilities in the preparation of their procurement plans; managing and monitoring all phases of the procurement process; and creating and maintaining a price monitoring list of goods and services and list of suppliers, contractors and consultants regularly used by DepED.

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