IT for Transparency as a Deterrent

It is all good that budget information is already published online. But how to make all those information easy-to-use and how to support the use of this information to exact accountability must be thought through. 

Those in government might want to challenge themselves more as to how the use of information technolgy (IT) as a means for transparency can serve as a DETERRENT to abuse and malpractice, especially by the most powerful officials, which is a faster way to advance accountability.

Let me cite a few examples abroad.

In one State in the US, they publish online the attendance sheet of the visitors of members of Congress. Automatically, as visitors come in, they sign up for attendance and this is reflected online. This way, people who would like to check who their Congresspersons are talking to can easily do so and hold their representatives to account if needed, such as when a law is passed benefitting certain powerful vested interests.

Another experience I took note of: for the allowance of members of Senate and House that are for food, transportation and other incidentals, they are given a debit card where all their transactions using that card are transmitted online.

I heard that in the Philippines, there is a practice in our Senate where senators simply write a certification for use of their budget amounting to as much as Php500,000 and that's as good as their liquidation report. They can just simply say that they use the said amount to discharge their duties as lawmakers. 

If all their expenses that are allowable (as this is needed to discharge their duty) can be paid using a debit card with transparent recording, then such palusot will not fly. They will also be deterred from using their allowance excessively, which is also common practice.

Another possible use of IT is the recording of travels abroad of officials and trainings they attend. I heard this is also prone to abuse. 

I wouldn't be surpised because, based on our experience, about 9 out 10 of our invitations to Senators/ Congresspersons for our events on governance and political reform were turn down because the officials we invited were said to be out of the country for "official function."

If the travels are really needed and they can justify it, publishing their travels abroad online shouldn't be a problem. 

These are strategic use of transparency through IT. Very targeted and definitely can deter malpractice.

For common malpractices and abuse, even for cases as big as the Napoles scam (if applicable), it is worthwhile to exert some time and effort to identify what actions and decisions of the officials (especially the topmost officials) in the entire process could have been deterred had there been transparent mechanism such as the online tracking I mentioned above. 

IT for transparency, if used strategically, can deter abuse and malpractice. Those in the bureaucracy championing this (and I know there are great minds out there) will have to be more clever and sharp to maximize our big investment in IT for transparency.