The Public Financial Management Committee and the Philippines-Australia Public Financial Management Program (PFMP) recently conducted a Brown Bag session with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) last November 25 at the DPWH Central Office, Manila, as part of its continuous communications outreach to different government agencies on the reforms. Some 50 staff attended the program, including directors, accountants, administrative officers, and information and budget officers from DPWH’s central and regional offices all over the country.
Topics discussed during the session included DPWH’s application of the Unified Account Code Structure (UACS), which aims to harmonize all government financial systems for better outputs-based reporting; DPWH’s internal management reforms, the Public Financial Management (PFM) Reforms Roadmap and PFMP’s support for these projects and Australia’s infrastructure initiatives.
The PFM Reforms Roadmap was formalized in September 2011 when President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 55 directing the integration and automation of government financial management systems.
Central to the reforms is the integration of all financial management information systems which is now proceeding in the form of the Budget and Treasury Management System (BTMS). The BTMS will cover the functionalities of the Budget Execution and Budget Accountability in DBM and the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr). The establishment of the UACS and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) are two initiatives which serve as the foundation for the integration.
Mr. Aldrin Aquino, Head of the Secretariat to the PFM Committee, explained during his presentation that as part of efforts to sustain the reforms, “the PFM Committee is now expanding its membership to include the revenue agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The reforms in the Philippine PFM will not end, not even in the future generations, but will continue to thrive until we achieve a transparent, accountable and responsive Public Financial Management that will provide a better life for every Filipino.”
UACS in DPWH
Relating to these reforms, DPWH Director for Financial Management Service Marichu Palafox shared how UACS served as the foundation for the financial management improvements in their department. Among the benefits they enjoyed were having accurate financial reports and statements, enhancing their Internal Control Structure, and improved financial transactions.
“The department [DPWH] has made significant progress with the implementation of the PFM reforms, particularly the UACS. The reforms improved our ability to be more transparent, accountable, and able to contribute to good governance,” said Palafox.
She also shared how DPWH prepared for the implementation of UACS by citing their Training of Trainers last December 2013 in both their central and regional offices.
DPWH’s Internal Management Reforms
Besides adapting UACS in their department, Undersecretary Raul Asis also discussed how DPWH managed their own internal reforms. With the introduction of their 5Rs, Usec. Asis emphasized how DPWH slowly transformed their agenda by focusing on good governance and curbing corruption.
He explained that by implementing the 5Rs: Right projects, Right cost, Right quality, Right people and being Right on Time, their vision of being an effective and efficient government agency is indeed attainable. Through the 5Rs, DPWH will increase their transparency by establishing a system of public consultations and full disclosure of their projects, as well implementing stricter evaluations of projects, and honing their employees’ competencies.
Moreover, Usec. Asis introduced their Long Term Performance Based Maintenance (LTPBM) system, a new concept designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of road maintenance operations. This multi-year contract will translate DPWH’s objectives into system performances and measures that will be used for both day-to-day and strategic management.
He also shared their implementation of the Road Safety Program that uses a Traffic Accident Recording and Analysis System (TARAS) to identify ‘black spots’ and work on clearing road hazards, illegal infrastructures and obstructions along national roads and right-of-ways.
Australia’s Infrastructure Initiatives
Daniel Featherston, PFMP Team Leader and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Counselor, underscored Australia’s support for the PFM reforms and infrastructure initiatives. He talked about DFAT’s support for financial management reform at DPWH from 2007 to 2013. The support, highlighted during a PFMP Case Study completed in September 2013, involved the roll out and institutionalization of eNGAS and eBudget in all 206 DPWH Offices; general support to financial management operations; and linking financial and physical performance information.
Featherston also mentioned that Australia is now in the early stages of developing a new program to address infrastructure connectivity in the Philippines. The program will include a component addressing PFM obstacles to the effective planning and delivery of capital works projects. This will form part of Australia’s emerging approach to work more closely with spending agencies as key stakeholders in delivering the benefits of PFM reform.
“We recognize that infrastructure is a large factor in economic growth, and we are keen to work with DPWH on how we can assist them with our technical expertise,” said Featherston. “This is an emerging piece of work that we are looking at doing, and we are at the point now that we would like to see how the reforms can be operationalised and put into place by working with important agencies like DPWH.”
Transformation does not happen in a day
In closing, DPWH Assistant Secretary B. Elizabeth Yap highlighted the importance of PFM Reforms in the pursuance of good governance and financial accountability and transparency. “PFM is not about providing technology but improving management. I know that transformation does not happen in a day, but it takes making small steps everyday towards the positive change that we desire. These improvements will surely be successfully implemented one day,” she said.
This is the fourth time that the DBM and PFMP have conducted a joint PFM Brown Bag session, following those with BTr, Department of Finance (DOF) and the Commission on Audit (COA).
Originally, the concept of a “brown bag” session referred to a training or information session held during lunch time, where meals are packed in brown bags to maximize the time and learning opportunities for employees during their lunch break. Over time, the term has been loosely used to refer to a short and informal meeting, training, or presentation held in the work place.