Step Up Conducts Year-End Assessment for DILG Region VII

TET_3518Step Up Consulting was contracted by the Department of Interior and Local Government Region VII Regional Office to facilitate the review on the implementation of locally-funded projects as well as a strategic planning for the year 2019.  The activity was held on December 19-21, 2018 at the Bohol Bee Farm Resort in Dauis, Panglao Island.

The activity was attended in by the DILG officials from the four provinces of Region VII, namely Bohol, led by Mr. Johnjoan Mende, provincial director; Cebu, led by Mr. Jerome Gonzales, provincial director; Negros Oriental, led by Mr. Dennis Quinones; and Siquijor, led by Mr. Kenneth Kilat.

Step Up Develops Guide on Road Asset Valuation

LRMPATStep Up Consulting Services was contracted by the Louis Berger Group, Inc. to draft the guidelines n Provincial Road Asset Valuation based on inputs from the Department of Public Works and Highways,  the Department of Interior and Local Government, and Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia.

Road asset accounting is a problematic practice in the Philippines. The most recent pronouncement in road asset accounting was the New Government Accounting Systems (NGAS) promulgated in 2001 through COA Circular 2001-005. While the NGAS, through the NGAS Manual, prescribes the rules in accounting for road assets, the corresponding effect on financial statements is severe when the time the road assets are completed.  Road assets on construction are debited to a Construction in Progress account but this is eventually closed to Government Equity account upon road asset completion.  As a result, road assets are no longer valued in the financial statements but are only disclosed as Public Infrastructure in the Notes to Financial Statements.

This accounting treatment has several effects. Road assets are no longer treated as assets but expenses, theoretically, as the values are closed against the equity account. Correspondingly, monitoring these assets become virtually impossible because they are not considered as part of the fixed assets inventory, and thus, are not provided with depreciation.  While road condition of the province has improved because of the rehabilitation, the provincial LGU’s value (represented by its equity account) decreased because the assets are technically charged against the equity account.  Under normal circumstances, this could not have been possible.  Asset acquisitions should have increased the net value of a local government unit.

This engagement is critical to ensure that road assets are valued in financial statements of local government units.

Step Up Team Wins Research Grant

encite OGD logoStep 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.

Step Up Presents Research in 8th ICEGOV – Portugal

Michael Canares with other members of the ODDC network
Michael Canares with other members of the ODDC network

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 Assists Tagbilaran City Government

The ELA Workshop participants
The ELA Workshop participants

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.

Step Up Completes LDN Internal Audit Strengthening Contract

Mentoring sessions with LDN Internal Audit Team.
Mentoring sessions with LDN Internal Audit Team.

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.

Step Up Helps Strengthen Internal Audit of Davao del Norte

ddn for websiteThe Provincial Road Management Facility contracted Step Up Consulting to conduct the capacity building activity for the Internal Audit Services Division (IASD) of the Province of Davao del Norte, one of its partner provinces. The engagement was designed to assist the IASD in developing and implementing an Internal Audit Plan for the identified  road rehabilitation and maintenance systems and processes in order to come up with an Internal Audit report with doable and useful recommendations. Step Up Consulting team was composed of Managing Consultant Michael Canares, resource person Marilou Bueno, and documenter Cleofe Ambulo.

As a result of the engagement the IASD was able to plan, implement, write and present the audit report on one of the key risks in local road management to the risk owner, the Provincial Engineering Office. IASD was also able to craft a simple audit recommendations monitoring system to ensure that auditees will comply with audit recommendations and improved internal control processes in their daily operations.

One of the activities of the mentoring process was an international online course on internal audit where four of the IASD staff members were enrolled in.  After the course, the auditors completed an online assessment where two of the staff members got a 100% rating in the examinations.

Step Up made use of a mentoring-focused approach where capacity development needs were assessed on a regular basis so that interventions designed will be able to sufficiently meet competency gaps and produce the desired outputs.  The engagement was conducted in April to June 2014 with a mixture of on-site and on-line mentoring. This was also the first time that Step Up used Facebook as an online-mentoring tool where mentees can directly ask questions from mentors and where files are shared and outputs are submitted and commented on.

IASD staff members appreciated the whole mentoring approach and the engagement was rated very satisfactory by the participants.

Step Up Assists DILG

Mr. Canares and the participants of the PRMF/DILG consultative workshop on LRMPA.
Mr. Canares and the participants of the PRMF/DILG consultative workshop on LRMPA.

Step Up Consulting Services was contracted by the Provincial Road Management Facility to assist the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in reviewing its Local Road Management Performance Assessment Tool (LRMPAT), a tool in assessing the performance of local government units.   A consultative workshop was done with representatives of regional offices of DILG across the country last 22-23 May 2014 at The Linden Suites in Ortigas, Manila.

The Local Road Management Performance Assessment (LRMPA) Consultative Workshop started at 8:45 a.m. on 22 May with an opening program where Ms. Ruby Romero of DILG – SLRF  thanked the PRMF Team and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian Government for the support and partnership with DILG. For his part, Mr. Luke McNamara, Capacity Development Manager of PRMF emphasized the importance of sharing insights and experiences in the course of the workshop to further understand and improve the LRMPAT.

The LRMPAT was developed in 2012 when Mr. Canares was still the Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator of PRMF.  The tool was pilot-tested in select cities and provinces in the same year to serve as input to the tool’s final revision.  Mr. Ronet Santos was then contracted by PRMF to facilitate the whole process.  In 2013, DILG rolled-out the implementation of the tool nationally and thus the need to hear the perspectives of those conducting the assessments in the provinces and cities.

A total of 46 participants attended the two-day workshop.  Mr. Michael Canares was the lead facilitator of the activity while Ms. Jean Celeste Paredes was its documenter.

Step Up is Represented in OGP Bali Conference

OGP Bali
Mr Canares with some of the members of the Philippine delegation together with Ambassador Aguinaldo and Maria Ressa of Rappler.

Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up consulting is one of the representatives in the recent conference on Open Government Partnership held in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on May 6-7 2014.  The theme of the conference was “Unlocking Innovative Openness: Impetus to Greater Citizen Engagement“. The two-day event was opened with the plenary address of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in front of more than 500 delegates from across Asia-Pacific and the world.

Mr. Canares is one of the 30 Filipinos from government, academia, media, and civil society, who were invited to attend the high-level conference.  The conference discussed on the innovations, opportunities, limitations, and challenges of open government in the region.

Mr. Canares was the self-appointed rapporteur of the Open Data Research Network, a network of researchers on open data where Step Up Consulting is a member. During the course of the conference, he wrote two blog posts that were featured in the Open Government Partnership and cited in several articles on open governance and transparency.

The links to the posts on the Open Government Partnership website can be found here. These posts originally appeared in the Open Data Research Network website.

Day 1 Summary

Day 2 Summary

 

 

Step Up presents result of Open LGU Study to Bohol

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Step Up Consulting Services presented the result of its study “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?” or Open LGU Research Project in a Presentation and Validation Workshop held in the afternoon of February 25, 2014 at the MetroCentre Hotel and Convention Center. The research team, composed of Mr. Michael Canares, Ms. Mariejoe Narca and Ms. Jare Arawiran, presented to an audience of 40 representatives from different civil society groups and the government sector of the Province of Bohol, who were the identified stakeholders of Open Data, some of whom are among the respondents of the research.

The team presented its key findings highlighting, among others, that Bohol fully complies with the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP) of DILG by posting required governmental information in its website. Also, Bohol provides more information in its website about local governance affairs than what is required. For example, the province posts its Provincial Atlas, a collection of maps and other relevant information that is useful for decision-making processes not only for governments but also for investors in its website. However, Bohol only achieves five of the ten criteria for open data. Relevant governance data exists. The data is available in digital form. The data is available free of charge and is up-to-date and it is easy to find information on the data set. However, data cannot be reused as it is not machine readable. The budget files, for example, are in PDF and needs to be converted into other forms (e.g. Excel spreadsheets) to allow a user to analyse the data.

On the part of the citizen groups, most of the civil society groups are not yet aware of the existence of the FDP. Thus, the different organisations did not look for documents in the provincial government’s website. As a result, information provided by Bohol in its website is hardly used by citizen groupsThere are at least three reasons for this. First, they are not aware that the data exists in the website. Second, they are not interested with the information provided.  Third, even when the information is provided, they do not have the technical knowledge to understand and use the documents for their benefit.

The recent event earned as much enthusiasm from its audience as it did during the project launch in July this year. The activity did not only become a venue for the stakeholders / respondents to hear and validate the results of the study, it also gave the aud ience an opportunity to express their insights, hopes and commitments for a genuinely transparent governance.

The research team is set to do two separate provincial presentations in South Cotabato and Bulacan, the other two study sites and a national presentation for the three provincial sites in Manila within this quarter and the next of 2014.