When a shared goal is pursued with consistency, transparency and political will, nothing can stand in the way. Such is the case of Bulacan’s Reinventing Public Service Program.
The local government unit’s vision was to create a strong middle class at the core of the citizenry with equal access to opportunities and services. However, in 1998, it faced many challenges. Among these were the need to improve the bureaucracy and reorient the employees, eliminate irrelevant systems and procedures, and raise the personnel’s morale by providing incentive mechanisms and overcoming resistance to change.
The local government’s first move was to reorganize its structure to optimize finances, property, and human resources. A major change was the merging of the Provincial Treasurer’s Office and the Provincial Assessor’s Office to increase efficiency and accountability, and ultimately increase tax collection. Initial resistance to this merger was eliminated through discussions with those concerned, and reassignments or financial packages for the displaced. The merger resulted in a reduction of positions from 82 to 64 with minimal dislocation for the affected 22%.
Other changes involved creation of offices, such as the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Office, and the expansion of others into full departments, such as the Provincial Youth Sports and the Employment Development Office. Other offices such as the Provincial Environment and Natural Office and Natural Office and the Provincial Cooperatives and Enterprise Development Office were streamlined to increase efficiency. The Management Information Systems was upgraded to respond to computerization. Aside from systems and procedure improvements, the LGU set up a quality service improvement program in its offices, encouraged local participation in planning and budgeting, and provided incentives such as salary standardization, housing, awards, and scholarships to its staff.
The impact of the reorganization of the local government was immediate. Real property tax collection increased by 25.4% and total revenue from quarry tax, mining and other fees increased by 72% within a year. The province saved Php14M in personnel services and reaped a surplus of Php5M in 1999. Computerization provided greater accountability and transparency, improved information access and effective and efficient service delivery, and saved the provincial government Php3M. In terms of people’s empowerment, everyone in the provincial government could claim ownership of the reorganization effort. Overall, reinventing public service in Bulacan has resulted in quality and timely service to the people, and has contributed to their improved quality of living.