Some thoughts on serving the public better

By Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, Ombudsman


Section 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

Uniform recruitment procedure.  I was just telling my staff the other day, “why not for the Civil Service Commission to issue a directive that would make uniform the recruitment procedures of all government agencies?”  I am sure there are certain arguments, practical and operational, that militate against such uniform system. One may say that each agency has its own peculiarities and requirements that need to be addressed in recruitment.  I agree.  Still, the best thing is to sound off to the Civil Service head and find out.philippine-republic

Uniform use of official directives.  Another area where uniformity may be good, useful or advisable is perhaps in the use by agencies of official directives.  I mean, when should a government agency use an “office circular,” an “office order,” an office memorandum,” “memo circular,” “office advisory,” and so forth, when it comes out with official issuances addressed to different persons, offices and entities, both within and outside of the agency?  A uniform system in this area will greatly educate the public about the meaning and importance of official issuances.

Uniform use of government forms.  Many government forms the public are told to fill when they transact business with the bureaucracy are not “officialized.”  Citizens go to a government agency for something they need and are told to accomplish an official form that is often just referred to by its normal name, such as “sworn undertaking,” or “application form.”  I think government forms may serve both government and citizen better by being referred to, say, as QC Form No. Eng-14 or PNP Form No. FEU-16. A look at the form number alone, say, of the first one, will tell the user that said form is one officially used by Queaccountability2zon City and it comes from the engineering department.  Revisions in the same invariably mean improvement in the form’s data collection or presentation.  Any citizen who uses, say, “PNP Form No. FEU-16, rev. 01 April 09,” will then know he is filling up something where the more complete disclosure is asked of him, and knows that he need not fill up another form, since in one form he will have disclosed all the information needed by the agency about him at that time.  Will not this system help abbreviate government transactions?

Uniform system in tracking visitors.  This is another area in government procedures that needs improvement.  Citizens may visit a government office housed in a multi-story building, each floor of which may ask them to register their names, addresses, person to visit and purpose.  This may happen when the visiting citizens need to go from one floor to another because the different offices they may need to visit are located in different floors.  Why not simplify this tracking procedure and make visitors register once only and give them an identifying tag that is good from one floor, or one office, to the other?  And need they be asked who the person on each floor they want to see?  Would not “purpose: OB” be sufficient?

Making the public pay the easier way.   Have you ever visited a government agency where after taking you a full day accomplishing all the forms and having them acted on by different offices located in different floors or places, you are now asked to go to the ground floor to pay the cashier?  That may mean needing to go down several floors just so you could pay the fees for the official business you just transacted.  This can be very tiringaccountability road sign illustration design over a white background and time-consuming.  Government elevators offer little comfort – they are often too slow due to, among others, the sheer number of people using them.  Why not place the cashier at the very floor or office where the final stage of the official transaction is done?  That will save the transacting public time and effort.

Motivation for asking the questions.  I ask all these questions, and suggest my own initial answers, because I would like to see some uniformity infused in government systems.  This is uniformity that could provide some predictability whenever citizens transact business with government.  With uniformity in procedures will come order in government transactions.  Predictability and order in citizen-government interaction are educative and efficiency-related virtues that all government agencies must constantly pursue, so they can serve the public better.  My suggestions actually may in time be incorporated in LGU’s and agencies’ respective citizen charters.

We in the public sector must constantly think of ways to make life easier for the members of the public that transact official business with us.  It is the only way to serve the public as we should.  I will be happy if my readers give me their own suggestions on how government can continuously improve its service to the public.  Showing to the public that they are cared for is also the only way the public can be persuaded to support the government with their taxes and with their cooperation, especially when government makes tough policy decisions that require sacrifices from all Filipinos.

Original published on the July 31, 2009 issue of Business Mirror.

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