ONE GOVERNMENT

Opinion

By Ike Señeres

“Anti-corruption”, “anti-red tape”, “integrity monitoring” and “Ease of doing business” are buzz words that are apparently separate from each other, but are actually closely intertwined, either directly or indirectly. From one perspective, it could be said that corruption is completely different from red tape, but then again we could not deny that corruption could also cause red tape, and vice versa as a matter of fact, red tape or the slow processing of government transaction could also breed corruption. As a matter of fact, it could be said that there are many government agencies that are not corrupt, but are in effect inefficient because of red tape. Same goes for so many government employees who are not corrupt, but are inefficient. As for me, I would rather not choose the lesser evil, because I would rather choose what is not corrupt, or what is not evil,

In so many words, it could be explained that if there is integrity, there is no corruption and therefore it would make sense to monitor integrity because by doing so, we could also monitor the easing up of corruption, it that is at all possible. Much as I would like to be optimistic about the desirable triumph of integrity over corruption, I would rather say that we should not “tempt the mortals”, because integrity could give way to temptation. I am saying that because from a strictly technical point of view, very little corruption could happen if there is very little discretion. I have seen that over and over again, that discretion is the “friend” of corruption and conversely, strict implementation of rules without discretion is the “enemy” of corrupt people, the same people who could not care less about integrity.

By the way it sounds, “Ease of doing business” seems to have nothing to do with corruption and red tape, but in reality, these two evil forces are really the ones that are making it difficult to do business in this country. On one hand, it could be said that the too many requirements that are being required by the government offices are the ones that are slowing down the conduct of business. On the other hand however, it could also be said that some corrupt government officials are purposely adding more requirements, so that the applicants who would have a hard time submitting them would now fall victim to extortion and bribery, as the case may be. Perhaps that is the reason why President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has issued orders not only to reduce the number of requirements, but also to make the lines of applicants shorter.

Creating a “one stop shop” for government services is not a new idea. I have done it before, although it was difficult to sustain. A few years ago, the government tried to put up an online version of the “one stop shop” concept, but the idea was overtaken by some changes in government priorities, so to speak. Recently, the “whole government” approach seems to have acquired some traction, basically promoting the idea that two or more government agencies should coordinate to work together, to deliver similar or related services to a citizen. Basically, “whole of government” is the same as the “one stop shop” idea, except that the latter is a physical, actual brick and mortar site. In a manner of speaking, it could be said that the online version of the “one stop shop” in the form of a web portal is the most up to date solution so far.

Making two or more government agencies work together is easier said than done, but what could possibly make it easier is a unified platform that would enable any citizen to transact online with any government agency from anywhere at any time by using any available device. That would mean transacting with any and all government agencies that would have any product or service to offer to the citizens in general. Take note that the key word here is “transact” meaning to engage the government in any way, in whatever form it takes. To be specific, these could range from complaints to requests to reports to questions all the way to compliments, including of course the purchase of tangible products and the payment of taxes, fees and contributions. Come to think of it, that could even include the purchase of subsidized rice and discounted medicines.

For all intents and purposes, the government is really just one giant conglomerate with so many holding companies and subsidiary units. Despite all the names and legal charters that its parts would brandish, the government really has one “owner” and that is the “State”. And despite its wide range of target sectors and audiences, the government really has one “market” and these are the citizens, including of course its resident aliens and foreign tourists. At the risk of stating the obvious, any citizen could transact with “one government” to get anything, again using any available means. To be more specific, that could mean buying from a physical store, from a mobile app or an online web portal.

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