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 Presents at ICEDEG Conference in Ecuador

The Panel Members and ICEDEG 2015 Ecuador
The Panel Members and ICEDEG 2015 Ecuador

Managing consultant of Step Up Consulting Services joins the panel of four speakers conducting a tutorial on Open Government and Open Data at the International Conference on E-Democracy and E-Government.  The conference was held at the Universidad de Las Americas in Quito, Ecuador, last 8-10 April, 2015.

Michael Canares spoke about Open Government and Open Data in Asia and joined Sandra Elena and German Stalker of the Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (Argentina) , Francois Van Schalkwyk of African Minds (South Africa), and Carlos Jimenez (Spain), founder of the IEEE e-government initiative.

The participation of Michael Canares in the conference was funded by a paper dissemination grant from the International Development Research Center through World Wide Web Foundation.

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 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 Managing Consultant speaks at GDI Conference

GDI DIE Green and Social
Canares, Loewe, Perch, and Schafer in the panel on Effects of Poverty-Oriented Policies on the Environment

Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting, was one of the few invited speakers in the recently concluded conference on Green and Social: Managing Synergies and Trade-offs at the Deutsche Well, Bonn, Germany last 12-14 March 2014.  The conference, jointly sponsored by the German Development Institute and the Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth Network (PEGNet), aims to bridge the gap between environmental and social perspectives on development. Mr. Canares represented the HNU Center for Research and Publication as editor of its academic journal, the Lumina.

Mr. Canares presented his paper entitled “Making Conditional Cash Transfers Green:  Opportunities for a Welfare and Environmental Agenda in the Philippines.” It looks at the potential and trade-offs of adding environmental conditions to the Philippine government’s cash conditional transfer program – the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, otherwise known as 4Ps.

He was in the same panel as Leisa Perch of the World Center for Sustainable Development in Brazil.  The panel was moderated by Markus Loewe of the German Development Institute while George Schafer of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) was the panel discussant.   According to one of the organizers of the conference, Carmen Richerzhagen, there were a total of 90 paper submissions received, and only 14 were accepted for presentation at the conference.

The conference was attended by roughly 200 people from all over the globe.  Marianne Fay, chief economist for sustainable development and climate change at the World Bank, and Ernst Ulrich Von Weizsacker of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) were the keynote speakers.

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.

Step Up is Finalist at U4 Proxy Competition

u4 workshopStep Up Consulting Services is one of the five finalists at the U4 Proxy Competition launched by the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center based in Bergen, Norway.  Mr. Michael Canares, Managing Consultant of the firm, presented his idea in front of scholars, aid agency representatives, and students, of how corruption at the local level can be measured using locally-generated tax and fees as a proxy indicator.

U4 is one of the leading think tanks focusing in anti-corruption.  It concentrates its efforts in assisting donor practitioners to address corruption challenges more effectively through their development support.  The centre is operated by the Chr. Michelsen Institute – an independent centre for research on international development and policy – and is funded by AusAID (Australia), BTC (Belgium), CIDA (Canada), DFID (UK), GIZ (Germany), Norad (Norway), Sida (Sweden) and The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The proxy challenge competition was launched last year “to address the perennial problem of assessing whether anti-corruption efforts are successful. “The Proxy Challenge” calls for greater use of bespoke proxy indicators. To assemble a body of promising ideas, U4 selected 5 finalists coming from development practitioners, monitoring and evaluation professionals, and researchers and convened these researchers in Bergen to present their work.

The five finalists were  (1)Integrity Action; (2) Bernard Gauthier (HEC Montréal), Frédéric Lesné (CERDI), Joël Cariolle (CERDI); (3) Mihály Fazekas (University of Cambridge and Corruption Research Centre); (4)  Joël Cariolle (CERDI), Frédéric Lesné (CERDI), Elise S. Brezis;  and Michael Canares (Step Up Consulting). Mihaly Fazekas was the winner of the competition.

Michael Canares said that having been selected as one of the five finalists was already an honour in itself. In his presentation, he thanked the panel for giving him the opportunity to present his idea. Mr. Canares is the only presenter and finalist coming from the global south.

Open LGU Research Team presents research findings in Good Governance Summit

The Open LGU Research Team presents initial findings of its research “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?” in the recently concluded Good Governance Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center last 15-17 January 2014.  The summit, sponsored by the Philippine Government featured the initiatives towards making the government more transparent and accountable – from the use of cards for cashless transactions to open data and e-procurement.

joseph
De Guia’s presentation
miko
Canares’ presentation

Mr. Michael Canares and Mr. Joseph de Guia, team leader and research associate of the project respectively, presented the results of the study in two provinces – Bohol and South Cotabato in the session on the Promise of Open Data.  They were joined by Andreas Palweke of the World Wide Web Foundation, Dr. Sherwin Ona of the De La Salle University, Paolo Agloro of the Ateneo de Manila University, and Gia Banaag of the Open Data Task Force. Estefanie Ulit of the De La Salle University moderated the session which was held on the second day of the Summit.

The panel got a warm reception of the audience, comprising of around 300 people from different national agencies, local government units, media, academia, non-government organizations, and IT practitioners.  Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism made insightful comments on the work of the research team, more particularly on how to sustain the Full Disclosure Policy and whether DILG penalizes local government units who do not disclose their data.

ODDC team phil
(L to R). Mr. Pawelke (Web Foundation), Mr. Canares (Open LGU), Ms. Ong (Open Data Task Force), Secretary Lacierda, Ms. Ulit (DLSU-Manila), Mr. De Guia (Open LGU), and Dr. Ona (DLSU).

The second day of the summit was also the launch of data.gov.ph, the Philippine data portal which serves as the repository of all government data that has so far been made public. It was also the same time the launch of the revised Full Disclosure Policy portal (see  http://fdpp.blgs.gov.ph/).  Secretary Lacierda led the ceremonial launch of data.gov.ph while Undersecretary Austere Panadero led the launch of the Full Disclosure Policy.