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Gov’t offices directed to cut red tape

Vol. XXII, No. 40-A [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Saturday, September 20, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Government offices are now required to set up a public assistance or complaints desk and hotline numbers to immediately respond to the needs of persons who want to avail of frontline services.

This requirement is part of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, which Malacañang issued on Friday.

Section five of the Anti-Red Tape Act IRR states that each office or agency "shall establish a public assistance/complaints desk in all their offices, where an officer or employee knowledgeable in frontline services shall at all times be available for consultation and advice."

"The desk shall be attended to even during break time," the IRR said.

Frontline services refers to the process or transaction between clients and government offices involving application for any privilege, right, permit, reward, license, concession, or for any modification, renewal, or extension of applications or requests.

The IRR also requires agencies to institute hotline numbers, short message service or "text" and other mechanisms by which the public can express their complaints, suggestions or comments.

"It may also institute one-stop shops or walk-in service counters. Special lanes may be established for pregnant women, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities," it said.

Republic Act 9485, or the Anti-Red Tape Act, was signed into law by President Gloria M. Arroyo on June 18 last year. It directs government agencies to modify and simplify their systems and procedures within one year starting last August.

The law, among others, limits the number of signatures of officials or employees directly supervising the evaluation, approval or disapproval of the frontline services to a maximum of five signatures. It also provides that all applications for services should be acted upon not longer than five working days for simple and 10 working days for complex transactions.

The IRR also enjoins the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Development Academy of the Philippines to conduct a "report card survey" to obtain feedback on how agencies are providing services to the public.

"The survey shall also be used to obtain information and/or estimates of hidden costs incurred by clients to access frontline services which may include, but is not limited to, bribes and payments of fixers," it said.

The survey seeks to evaluate the agencies, check clients’ satisfaction, operational efficiency and areas vulnerable to corruption, highlight best practices, provide incentives for excellent service delivery, and provide recommendations for improvement in problem areas.

The CSC will publish the results in an annual report card survey and provide copies to the government agency concerned.

Officials said the IRR seeks to boost the country’s competitiveness and to improve the country’s business environment. "To be world class for global competitiveness, we invest in reducing the red tape in all agencies to cut business cost," Ms. Arroyo said in a speech on the IRR.

"We will coordinate our initiatives to ensure the implementation of the anti-red tape measures...It (IRR) will allow efforts to cut red tape which will lead to better competitiveness," said Trade Sec. Peter B. Favila in an interview.

Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairman Ricardo L. Saludo admitted that red tape has affected the country’s drive to lure investments. "[Red tape] is the deadweight dragging down our country’s competitiveness in the global economy, the thorn in the side of the hapless, ordinary Filipino," he said.

A Palace statement released yesterday said it takes about 88 signatures to get a housing development permit. It added that last year’s tax overpayment refunds took eight years to approve. The government also acknowledged that "pervasive fixing" has become "a scourge for the millions who need to get their licenses and documents."

Early this month, a World Bank and International Finance Corp. study titled "Doing Business 2009" showed the Philippines slipping to 140th place from 136th previously, in terms of the ease of doing business. The World Bank evaluated 181 economies using key indicators like sustaining reforms that would simplify the starting of a business, dealing with construction permits, securing credit, and trading across borders. — Alexis Douglas B. Romero

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