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Last 17 October 2015, Step Up Consulting Services (Step Up) and Transparency International-Philippines (TI-PH) co-organized Making Open Data User-Friendly: An Open Data End-User Engagement Workshop,through the generous support of the Southeast Asia Technology and Transparency Initiative (SEATTI). Combining talks from experts in open data, transparency and data use with interactive workshops, the event aimed to bring open government data to the doorsteps of concerned groups and individuals. This is Transparency International-Philippines’ second Technology for Transparency workshop, which is an overall initiative to use technology as a means to innovate integrity tools and promote transparency. TI-PH’s involvement in the workshop links the implementation and use of open data with the fight against corruption.
In partnering with TI-PH, Step Up Consulting Services aimed to share its research on the state of open data in the Philippines. The research was successful in pinpointing the various elements which interact and cause challenges for open data use. Step Up views the end-user engagement workshop as a springboard toward identifying, improving, and sharing the solutions identified for the challenges we face in opening data in the country.
Together, the workshop organizers gathered different experts and participants with a shared interest in making open data more accessible, comprehensible and most importantly, usable by potential beneficiaries. Speakers for the workshop were Michael Canares, Strategy Advisor of Step Up, Dr. Cleo Calimbahin, Executive Director of Transparency International, Dody Priambodo, Project Manager of SEATTI, Michelle Manza of the Open Data Task Force, and TJ Palanca, Operations Coordinator of Uber Philippines and data blogger at Jumbo Dumbo Thoughts.
Step Up is among the five researchers/research teams granted with research funds by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to undertake a study on the best method to build the capacity of civil society organizations on open government data. The action research entitled “Enhancing Citizen Engagement with Open Government Data” will be implemented in the next three months and is aimed at identifying the best approach to use in increasing citizen engagement with local governments through data sets published online.
The Step Up proposal was one of the more than 80 proposals screened by the OGP’s Open Data Working Group. Among the proposals submitted, Step Up made it to the top five, together with Open North, Inc of Canada, Mitrovic Development and Research Institute of South Africa, Mark Frank of the United Kingdom, and Sunlight Foundation of the United States. Step Up is the only research team from Asia.
The announcement from OGP can be found here.
After five successful and profitable years of operation, the Rural Bank of Loboc, Inc. has grown in an unprecedented pace and achieved a set of financial indicators that speak of the bank’s operational sustainability. To revisit its directions and chart a new set of goals to 2020, the Board of Directors hired Step Up Consulting to facilitate the process to assist them in looking at their bank operations and plan for the next six years.
As a culminating event, a workshop was held at the bank’s office in Loboc, Bohol on 9 November 2014. The workshop was attended by 5 of its board of directors, one bank consultant, and all members of the staff. The workshop resulted to a strategic plan that the Board will pursue to 2020.
The Rural Bank of Loboc was conceptualized in early 2004 as a major component of The Grand Dreams for the Development of Loboc. This dream, which served as a guide for the administration of Mayor Calipusan, focused on key priority areas labeled as LITHOPE – which stands for livelihood, infrastructure, tourism, health, organizational strengthening, peace and order, and education. The idea then was to revive a previous proposal of converting the credit cooperative into a rural bank to finance development initiatives in the municipality. If this would not work, it was planned that local Lobocanons will be organized to set up a bank that would serve the town’s financing needs for agriculture, small and medium-scale enterprises, and other productive activities, with the end view of promoting economic growth and development of Loboc and the economic empowerment of the Lobocanons. The second route was decided as the most viable option.
To date, the Rural Bank of Loboc serves the financing needs of the town of Loboc and nearby municipalities.
Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting Services, presented his research entitled – “Full Disclosure Policy and its Impact on Local Governance in the Philippines”, in the recently concluded International Conference on the Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance held in the historic city of Gumaraes, Portugal. The research paper was one of the outputs of the Open LGU Research Project which Step Up implemented in 2013.
Mr. Canares also facilitated the session on Open Data Intermediaries together with Sumandro Chattapadhyay of Data Meet India. The study on Open Data intermediaries is one of the Web Foundation-funded synthesis papers on Open Data in Developing Countries research that Step Up manages together with a team of researchers from India and South Africa. In the session, Mr. Canares was joined by other members of the Open Data Research Network – Leo Mutuko of Ihub (Kenya), Sandra Elena of CIPPEC (Argentina), and Ricardo Matheus of Brazil.
ICEGOV is a series of International Conferences on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance taking place annually around the world. The series focuses on the use of technology to transform the working of government and its relationships with citizens, businesses and other non-state actors in order to improve public governance and its contribution to public policy and development (EGOV).
The ICEGOV conference series is coordinated by the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), based in Guimarães, Portugal, in continuation of the work of the Center for Electronic Governance at UNU-IIST in Macao, China, which founded the ICEGOV series.
Step Up Consulting was contracted by the Provincial Roads Management Facility to conduct mentoring activities for the Provincial Internal Audit Office (PIAO) of Misamis Occidental on audit communications and audit recommendations monitoring from August to October 2014. The highlights of the engagement were the conduct of mentoring workshops on the two topics.
The mentoring activity was intended to enable participants to understand the importance of monitoring and tracking internal audit recommendations; learn how to establish an effective internal audit monitoring system; and know the importance of communication and writing skills in providing effective and persuasive management advise. As part of the outputs of the mentoring process, the PIAO was able to draft an Audit Recommendations Monitoring process, and a draft Audit Communications Plan.
Step Up was greatly appreciated by the participants for the topics they learned and for the process the mentors used in conducting the mentoring activity. The participants rated the Step Up 9.33 out of 10. The Step Up team was composed of Alvin Luis Acuzar, Jean Celeste Paredes, and managing consultant Michael Canares.
The City Government of Tagbilaran completed the review of its Executive-Legislative Agenda (ELA) last August 23, 2014. The three-day workshop, which culminated the series of preparatory workshops, fine-tuned the city’s ELA that was prepared in July 2013 before the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. And since the planning parameters changed dramatically, the need to come up with a plan that is relevant to the needs of the people and the City Government has become a necessity.
The event was attended by Mayor Baba Yap and the city department heads, the Sangguniang Panlungsod led by Vice-Mayor Jose Antonio Veloso and the city councilors, civil society representatives, representatives from the national government agencies, and the barangay captains. The workshop came up with prioritized the programs, projects, and activities that the city government will prioritize in 2015. Among these are the completion of the city hall’s repair, the provision of social and economic programs, and the needed rehabilitation of public infrastructure.
Step Up’s managing consultant, Mr. Michael Canares was the facilitator of the whole process including the pre-workshop activities that were conducted prior to the three-day workshop.
The Provincial Road Management Facility engaged Step Up Consulting to coach or mentor the Provincial Internal Audit Office (PIAO) of Lanao del Norte in order to strengthen the capacity of PIAO in three areas – conduct of audit engagement, audit report writing, and audit compliance monitoring system. The Step Up team was composed of Managing Consultant Michael Canares and Alvin Luis Acuzar, Learning Manager.
The mentoring process involved a combination of the following: (1) On-site mentoring consisting of a three-day theory-building exercise with concrete application on the audit of one priority risk area of the Provincial Engineer’s Office of Lanao del Norte.; and (2) and online mentoring on the actual engagement process and the writing of audit report. For this purpose, Step Up made use of Facebook as an online mentoring platform.
As a result of the engagement, the PIAO of the Provincial Government of Lanao del Norte was able to prepare its first Audit Engagement Plan which documents the planned, strategic, objective-based approach in conducting the audit of the Provincial Engineer’s Office. Conducting the audit activities based on planned work program is just part of the audit fieldwork process. The critical and important part is the audit documentation process through the preparation of working papers that became the basis in the preparation of audit findings and recommendations. The internal audit office was able to show improved competence both in the area of audit evidence-gathering and audit documentation. Finally, based on the results of the fieldwork as documented by the working papers, the Internal Audit Office was able to prepare audit findings and recommendations.
According to PIAO chief Chirelyn Leopoldo, the mentoring approach used by Step Up Consulting enabled them to learn audit concepts and apply them in actual work situations. As a result, they were able to complete a full audit cycle and prepare the audit report which they have recently presented to the Provincial Engineering Office, the auditee in this case.
Internal audit in the context of local government units is one of the expertise of Step Up Consulting. To date, it has assisted the provinces of Bohol, Bukidnon, Guimaras, Davao del Norte and Lanao del Norte.