Structures and systems to fight corruption
The solution to winning the fight against corruption is using effective structures and systems.
On Sept. 29, President Duterte offered to resign because of rampant smuggling. He said, “Can you stop corruption? You cannot, there is no way.” Though we cannot stop corruption, we can certainly minimize it. And there is a way that we are not using.
The usual way is to discover the corruption, then try to catch the culprits. This is not enough. We should also use creative structures and systems. Here are a few examples from my personal experience.
After the 1986 Edsa Revolution, the majority of steel bar manufacturers were violating standards and endangering people’s lives. We therefore created a structure that would systematically follow up violation complaints, with a system going directly to the public through radio and television. They would anonymously submit complaints for us to verify. We made sure both the retailers and manufacturers were penalized.
As a result, we closed down 12 of the 28 steel producers. Another four closed voluntarily as they feared adverse publicity. The system included eight full-time bodyguards with machine guns. This was because the culprits exacting monthly protection fees from erring steel producers were from the military, acting in cahoots with the Department of Trade and Industry. With this structure and system, corruption disappeared.
Another example is the massive corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC). In 2005, as in the past, nobody was closely supervising the BOC. A structure was put up called Cabinet Oversight Committee Against Smuggling (Cocas) composed of secretaries of trade and industry, agriculture, finance and justice. The chair was Gen. Angelo Reyes, with two private sector participants: Jesus Aranza of Federation of Philippine Industries representing industry, and myself from Alyansa Agrikultura representing agriculture. The system included meeting every two weeks to assess antismuggling performance and a weekly report to the President. Smuggling was reduced by 25 percent. However, the structure and the system were both abolished because “big fish” had been implicated.
A lower-level public-private antismuggling group was formed under the previous administration. The system used was similar to Cocas but success improved significantly when all meetings were held right inside the BOC conference room. On its last year with a 32-percent decline in smuggling rate, the group was also abolished.
When I was secretary of presidential flagship programs on projects at the Office of the President, we created a structure with private sector partnership. The system included a private sector counterpart in every region to monitor and evaluate performance with periodic reports. Because of transparency and collaboration, performance improved by 30 percent.
As for agriculture, the sub sectors of poultry and swine are in danger of dying due to continued, though less, corruption, as well as misguided policies, especially on importation. Recently, a public-private sector smuggling task force was created headed by Gen. Jonathan Ablang. A system of private subsector experts with improved access to the BOC data and inspection procedures is being harnessed. Already, corruption charges have been filed. The structure and system are newly installed, but the question is whether the political will can be sustained.
The President must add to the suboptimal way of fighting corruption the necessary structures and systems. Otherwise, massive corruption will continue to hound us. There is one last element needed: political will.
The author is Agriwatch chair, former Secretary of Presidential programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary of DA AND DTI. Contact is [email protected]
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