Step Up Publishes AID-FOI Tool

The FOI Research Team at Step Up Consulting , 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.

Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan of the FOI Project Management Office (FOI) was able to champion the use of the tool across national government agencies when he promoted the tool during the Freedom of Information (FOI) Annual Summit. A total of 200 agencies were able to use the tool to assess their information disclosure practices. As a result, of these initiatives, the AID-FOI tool was
included as part of the Compendium on the Innovation and Productivity Initiatives in the Public
Sector, which aims to provide an inventory of best practices on public service delivery in the Asia- Pacific region.

Step Up Consulting Publishes Open Contracting Research Training Module

Step Up Consulting recently released its new publication, the Open Contracting Research Training Module, a product of a 5 month-long research mentoring and training with researchers from Notre Dame of Marbel University funded by HIVOS and implemented in coordination with the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines. To download the file, click on this link.

Transparency in the procurement process and the implementation of procurement contracts is one of the principles enshrined in Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) alongside the principles of competitiveness, public monitoring, accountability, and streamlined procurement process. In promoting transparency in government procurement activities, government agencies are mandated to publish all bid opportunities and post all awards and contracts in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).  

However, public access to contracting information from planning up to implementation is limited. Most contracting documents are not published online and are being kept internally by agencies. The current version of the PhilGEPS does not have information on the planning and implementation stage. This situation makes tracking and monitoring of government projects difficult, which in turn makes government procurement activities susceptible to fraud, collusion, and corruption. 

With support from HIVOS, the Provincial Government of South Cotabato, in partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, implemented an open contracting program to strengthen transparency and accountability in local procurement systems in the province of South Cotabato.  This culminated with the publication of local procurement activities in a centralised portal in compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). 

HIVOS has conducted similar initiatives in the Philippines.  The publication of data, however, is not sufficient to fully realise the value of open contracting. It is critical and important that users are trained to use open contracting data for different purposes as advocacy, research, and development projects.

Researchers are one of the potential users of contracting data.  But only very few are trained in this area.  This research module is intended to help guide organisations wanting to train researchers in open contracting data.

Step Up Strategy Advisor Keynotes PICPA Middle East E-Conference

Michael Canares, Step Up’s Strategy Advisor, was the keynote speaker of the PICPA-UAE sponsored leg of the 2020 PICPA Middle East E-Conference held last 14 August 2020 via Zoom. Mr. Canares spoke about the topic, “Thriving in The Current Normal: Agility and Adaptability During Times of Uncertainty”, to over 150 attendees.

His key messages focused on the following key points:

Point 1: The PANDEMIC affects ALL OF US. But it will not affect EACH ONE OF US IN THE SAME WAY.

Point 2: Our AGILITY and ADAPTABILITY matters.

Point 3. The PANDEMIC invites us to REINVENT OURSELVES.

Mr. Canares also talks about the concept of “Low Touch Economy”, an analytical frame created by the Board of Innovation, that refers to the “the way businesses across the globe have been forced to operate in order to succeed as a result of Covid-19”.  He also talked about five essential tips on gliding through the crisis as a professional, based on the work of Hermina Ibarra of the London Business School.

Step Up Launches its First Online Training on Local Road Asset Management

Step Up Consulting launched last 29 July 2020 its first online training offering on local road asset management. The training consists of two synchronous online learning sessions of three hours each and 8 hours of asynchronous learning activities over a span of five days. The recipients of this first online training were the provincial governments of Bohol and Siquijor.

The training started off with an online survey and pre-test of all 30 participants, half of which come from Siquijor and the other half from Bohol. The survey intended to gauge the knowledge and skills of participants in local road asset management while at the same time collect their views and expectations of the training. The results of the survey were used by the learning facilitator, Mr. Michael Canares, in designing the course content and schedule.

Mr. Canares , strategy advisor of Step Up Consulting, is also the author of the book, “Local Road Asset Management for Local Governments: A Manual for Local Government Units”, that will soon be published by UNDP in the Philippines and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The first session was successfully conducted last 29 July 2020. The second session will be conducted on 6 August 2020. In the meantime, participants are busy completing their Session 1 post-test and their work assignments that include the preparation of asset booking requirements and definition of service standards and road sub-sector performance targets.

Mentoring for Open Contracting Research

On 24 June 2020, Step Up Strategy Advisor Michael Canares facilitated a research presentation of seven researchers from Notre Dame of Marbel University who used open contracting data to analyse procurement performance of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato. Mr. Canares led a team of mentors who trained and coached the researchers in undertaking research projects on public procurement. The project, dubbed as the First South Cotabato Open Contracting Research Challenge, was implemented by the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines with funding support from HIVOS.

The research projects were as follows:

Team 1-Forecasting Contractors’ Slippage for Infrastructure Projects in South Cotabato, by Cubort Bulanon and Chucky Marie Fernandez

Team 2- Finding Areas Underserved by High Schools in South Cotabato Using Network Analysis by Elisha Alvarado

Team 3 – Analysing Cost Efficiency of Procurement by Lot, by Michelle Capistrano

Team 4 – Profiling Contractor Performance of Contractors in the Province of South Cotabato, by Denver John Acebedo, Neiljan Raborar, and Fritz Tuazon

The research teams were identified in February this year and were trained through a Research Boot Camp held in General Santos City on March 11-13, 2020. The researchers then conducted research implementation from March to May this year, despite the pandemic. Luckily, the province of South Cotabato was least affected by COVID 19, allowing the researchers to conduct field implementation using both offline and online means.

Mr Canares mentored Teams 3 and 4, while Team 1 was mentored by Layertech Software Labs CEO Frei Sangil and Team 2 by Ben Hur Pintor, geospatial generalist, open-source and open data advocate, and maptivist.

Step Up Strategy Advisor is M&E Advisor for Vanuatu Roads Project

Image courtesy of Adam Smith International

Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor at Step Up Consulting is part of the implementation team of the Roads for Development Program Phase 2 (R4D2) currently implemented in Vanuatu by Adam Smith International, with funding support by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

R4D2 will support the Government of Vanuatu’s Public Works Department (PWD) under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU).  The program commenced in June 2019 and will run to the end of June 2022, with an option to extend by two years, subject to DFAT approval. The program aims to contribute to the achievement of the Government of Vanuatu’s (GoV) National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2030 (NSDP) goals, more particularly the following:

  • A dynamic public sector with good governance principles and strong institutions delivering support and services to all citizens of Vanuatu
  • Sustainable and well-maintained infrastructure and services for all, through inclusive and effective partnerships

Mr. Canares is R4D2’s short-term Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser.

Step Up Designs and Facilitates First South Cotabato Open Contracting Challenge

Transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts is one of the principles enshrined in Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act)  alongside the principles of competitiveness, public monitoring, accountability, and streamlined procurement process. In promoting transparency in government procurement activities, government agencies are mandated to publish all bid opportunities and post all awards and contracts in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS).  

However, public access to contracting information from planning up to implementation is limited. Most contracting documents are not published online and are being kept internally by agencies. The current version of the PhilGEPS does not have information on the planning and implementation stage. This situation makes tracking and monitoring of government projects difficult, which in turn makes government procurement activities susceptible to fraud, collusion, and corruption. 

With support from HIVOS, the https://southcotabato.gov.ph/Provincial Government of South Cotabato in partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines implemented an open contracting program in order strengthen transparency and accountability in local procurement systems in the province of South Cotabato.  This culminated with the publication of local procurement activities in a centralized portal in compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). 

To cultivate use of open contracting data, ECCP desires to build capacity of prospective users in understanding public procurement as well in using contracting data for various purposes, including research.  ECCP partnered with the Notre Dame of Marbel University (NDMU) to cultivate awareness and appreciation of teachers and students on the importance of public procurement and in using contracting data in academic research.

Two training programs were conducted to prepare proponents for the open contracting research  thinking through research topics.  The first one conducted last 2 February 2020 and focused on the discussion of open contracting and its value in promoting transparency and accountability, as well as improving public service delivery.  The second training, conducted on 15 February 2020, focused on cultivating use cases and enabling the participants to start thinking about potential research projects on open contracting.   

After the two trainings, participants we asked to submit proposals for the 1st South Cotabato Open Contracting Challenge.  Three proposals were received were the following:

  1. Forecasting Contractor Performance Using Non-Parametric Models by Cubort Bulanon and Chucky Marie Fernandez
  2. Citizen’s Project Monitoring Management System by Rodulfo Dorado and Elisha Susana Alvarico
  3. Cost-Efficiency of Procurement by Lot by Michelle Capistrano, Jennifer Era, and Rean May Galang

On March 11-13 2020, the proponents were invited to a BootCamp designed by Step Up Consulting’s strategy advisor, Michael Canares. He was joined by mentors and facilitators Ben Hur, Frei Sangil, and Vien Suerte to help polish and finalize the research proposals for implementation. The research outputs will be presented in June 2020.

Step Up Completes Regional Cultural Hub Feasibility Study

Step Up Consulting recently completed the feasibility study of establishing a regional cultural hub for the Visayas. The research seeks to determine the viability and sustainability of a permanent center and venue of productions and creative enterprises in the Central Visayas region.

The feasibility study focused on the five key aspects – market, technical, organizational, financial and socio-economic feasibility. Conducted in 2019, it involved different approaches: a combination of survey, focus group discussion or key informant interview, ocular inspection and site visits, and evaluation of documentary evidence.

The research team of Step Up is composed of Michael Canares, Jean Celeste Paredes and Mary Therese Pepito with the support of Marilou Sale. It was funded through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts managed by the Bohol Integrated Development Foundation.

Step Up Attends Outcomes Harvesting Workshop and Data Security Training

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Step Up Research Manager, Jean Celeste Paredes, attends the Outcome Harvesting Workshop and Data Security training organized by HIVOS last October 15-17, 2019 at the Bellevue Hotel, Ortigas.  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 Labs, Bantay Kita, CODE-NGO, among others.

Step Up Conducts Training of Trainers on Local Road Asset Management

ToT for LRAM

Step Up Consulting facilitated the conduct of a Training of Trainers on Local Road Asset Management (ToT on LRAM) sponsored by the United Nations Development Program‘s Roads2SDGs Project in partnership with the Department of Interior and Local Government.  The ToT on LRAM was held at the Bellevue Resort – Bohol  last August 19-23 2019.

The training gathered together close to 20 experts that are envisioned to become a resource pool for local road asset management in the country. The training aimed to enable the participants to (1) understand the basic principles underpinning the Local Road Asset Management (LRAM), as well as the different processes in ensuring that local government units achieve better road service delivery for its constituents; (2) learn the necessary knowledge and skills in rolling-out the local road asset management manual to local government units; and (3) realize the importance of asset management principles and practices to properly manage local road assets. 

The ToT was designed to enable participants to actually design and implement LRAM training sessions for local government officials.Those who performed well in the ToT will be asked to apply their skills in an upcoming run of the LRAM for provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.