Thursday, January 27, 2011

OnePercentLegacy: Protecting Investments on Public Projects

video

The OnePercentLegacy is a proposed undertaking for the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel, www.namfrel.com.ph) to support its work in monitoring the procurement processes by various government agencies.  It is akin to a social audit or social accountability, according to Philippine Budget Management department secretary, Florencio Abad.

The value proposition of the OnePercentLegacy is citizens can effectively help track and report progress of public projects at less than one percent of the project cost.  This will be done with the collaboration of the funding or contracting agencies and with trained volunteers. The data capture system will use an inclusive (built-for-participation) technology-enabled data portal, and the information collected will be integrated with that of the contracting agency’s own monitoring and evaluation system.
Trained volunteers of Namfrel will monitor and report project progress using tools like the mobile phones and cameras. They will also use specific checklists and on-line tools customized to the project being monitored. Anyone close to the project sites, like in places where a school building or a bridge is being built, could send spot reports using SMS, videos, photographs, or in oral or spoken form.  These pieces of information will serve as third-party inputs to the overall project monitoring process.
The one percent figure taken from the cost of a public project is both symbolic and actual.  The nominal cost is positioned to be attractive and acceptable to the contracting and funding agencies, like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank.  It is symbolic because over time, as more and more individuals participate in the process, each contribution becomes infinitesimally small as the total contribution by citizens becomes infinitely large.  The equivalent of one-percent-of-project-cost, as the cost of this social audit, will be actual and will set the benchmark for efficiency. It may not be breached regardless of the kind of project.

Information gathered from the OnePercentLegacy project will hopefully provide bilateral and multi-lateral public project fund (loan) providers a rationale to allocate funds for social audit by citizens.  This small investment to engage citizens will be used to help protect the larger investments they made the fund providers made on the public projects.

A pilot-test of the key deliverables and value-added will be carried out in the next few months.  The first applications will be in Namfrel's current monitoring programs.  Once the concept is proven feasible and sufficient operational knowledge has been accumulated, the OnePercentLegacy would be propagated in  other parts of the world.  This would be done by the funding agencies, by Namfrel or by third-party proponents.

Background on Namfrel

Namfrel is a non-partisan volunteer domestic election observation group founded in 1983 in the Philippines.  It was first of it's kind in the world.  It has carried out transparency and accountability-promotion projects in the past.  In 1987 in observed the bidding and project execution of small infrastructure projects by the department of Public Works and Highways in a program to create one million jobs nationwide.  In 2003, the department of Education engaged Namfrel to monitor the delivery of textbooks to public high schools and elementary schools.

Since then Namfrel continues be observe the procurement processes of the department of Education and the department of Health.  The department of Public Works and Highways and the department of Interior and Local Government have recently invited Namfrel to participate in the procurement processes and track the implementation of their projects.

Seeking your inputs

I would like to hear your thoughts on how the OnePercentLegacy could be improved and delivered well.  Do write in the comment section or send an email to OnePercentLegacy@gmail.com.  Better yet send in a video of you giving your comments.  Thank you very much.

(The author is a volunteer of Namfrel since 1986.  He served as executive director from 1997 to 2003.  He has been a member of the national council from 2009 up to the present.  He has observed elections in many countries since 1994 and has worked with the National Democratic Institute (ndi.org) in Afghanistan, Timor Leste and Bangladesh.  This project is dedicated to the volunteers of Namfrel who have offer time, talent and treasure to protect the integrity of Philippine elections.  For the nine Namfrel volunteers who offered the ultimate sacrifice to country, this project of vigilance and citizen oversight is offered so that their deaths would not been in vain.) (Text revised on 2011 Feb 16)

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous said...
    What an excellent idea. We have proposed a concept similar to this as a strategy to improve the efficiency of our judicial processes and reporting of campaign contributions and expenses.

    (Received from a friend, this post abridged by blog author)

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  2. Thanks for sharing your blog post. It is a fascinating concept - one which I have to admit I don't know much about. Mostly I was left wanting to know more:

    * What, exactly, are the outcomes that you hope citizen involvement will produce? Less corruption? Better work? Quicker completion? The details get lost a bit in general talk about "efficiency" - but perhaps you leave that intentionally vague.

    * How will you know whether monitoring is "successful"? That is, how will you monitor the effectiveness of your own monitoring?

    * What will the 1% be spent on? Will this project rely on existing (national) Namfrel infrastructure, or does it require a new infrastructure? To what extent will monitoring be centralized or decentralized?

    * Can you give a concrete example of how this kind of program has worked elsewhere? That might help give people a clearer idea of how it would work on the ground and what to expect in terms of payoff.

    Keep me posted and updated. I'm really interested to see what comes of this - and please let me know if there is any way I can help!

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  3. Great idea though the devil is in the details. I think the problem of procurement in the Philippines is less about implementation (where there are enough controls to discourage most except the thick-skinned; though there is an issue with project management) but in project selection and bidding. Thus, the 1% is best multiplied to the appropriate value taken at that step in the procurement process that also minimizes problems in project identification and selection and the bidding process. Ideally, that value is based on engineering estimates plus a reasonable profit to be effective in control.

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  4. Lawrence LachmansinghApril 4, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    'Bert - a very useful idea. Gets at both citizen participation and governmental accountability. Obviously there is more detail required for implementation beyond this concept presented. But the basic concept is great and in fact consistent with global trends of using social media, for example, as a means of securing both people participation and improved governance.

    I take the points made by earlier contributors on how to monitor the monitors, and how to articulate the indicators by which one would know whether the effort had been more or less successful.

    On the 1% itself, I wasn't sure if this was a number needed to actually do the monitoring, or if it was more symbolic of the "in kind" contribution that citizens at large can make, or both! I think it is important to clarify this point so that folks, particularly those who fund projects, understand what the 1% buys them, and how.

    Good luck, my friend, and please keep me updated on how this progresses.

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  5. Hello Telibert,

    I think some of the points, you know already. Anyway, my key points in the video are as follows:

    1. Building a knowledge base on government projects monitored:

    - Ask the same questions over and over again so that we can tally responses and glean insights from the quantitative results
    - Continuous improvement of volunteer interactions (better different more specific questions)
    - Move away from anonymous interactions (which skews the findings of similar efforts done by mass media organizations)
    * we want people to be responsible for what they say, so that the information developed can be actionable for legal and/or administrative proceedings
    * afterthought: fear of sanctions can be handled by internal rules regarding confidentiality and discretion in handling sensitive information
    - Share what we know - cultivate the value of finding specific answers to key questions

    2. Attaining a Low Cost Platform within the 1% nominal figure - use established enterprise platforms
    - contact center platform
    - social networking platform

    Business enterprise-level implementations tend to be expensive because of required minimum scale of operations to push costs down -- but low cost pilot projects are still feasible if a program development road map is properly laid out.

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  6. Dear Mr. Telibert
    I think this is a great idea. When you and I spoke earlier, I noted about a similar project but which focused on the Nigerian 2011 elections. I think is is a great idea. The fact that great minds are doing similar thing is a demonstration of god working in all of us to improve our own system. I will be more interested in seeing how well it works in your society and explore poissibilities of replicating similar thing in Nigeria. There is no need to re-invent a will, where something is working, we can replicate no matter who originated such.
    I wish you well and as I said above, I will be keen to see how this work and the possibilities of it been universalised!
    Greets from Nigeria,
    Dele A. Sonubi

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