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Faces of Open Government: Annalyn Sevilla

Rostros de gobierno abierto: Annalyn Sevilla

Annalyn Sevilla|

Annalyn Sevilla is the Undersecretary for Finance for the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines. DepEd is currently working with open government reformers to implement a participatory monitoring and evaluation platform to address the needs and gaps in delivering basic education inputs. The commitment is a part of their 2019-2022 OGP action plan.

Open government can better people’s lives by improving the quality of and access to public services, including health, education, and water and sanitation. What is the value of embedding transparency and citizen participation in the delivery of public services such as education?

Embedding the principles of open government such as transparency and citizen participation can further improve the quality of and access to public services. Experiences and evidence built up over several decades have shown that citizens and civil society play important roles by collaborating with governments to help achieve better outcomes. 

Citizen participation in education reform can strengthen the delivery process of public goods and services to learners, as well as teaching and non-teaching personnel, thus contributing to the attainment of development outcomes. In situations when it becomes difficult for the government to monitor the performance of service providers, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas where services are most needed, citizens’ engagement serves as the bridge to reach the most marginalized learners. Citizens acting as monitors serve as watchdogs to reduce possible corruption and strengthen service delivery at the grassroots level. 

Transparency in the delivery of public services and citizen engagement ensure that all actors in program planning and implementation are accountable for the effective delivery of services to intended beneficiaries. Ultimately, education systems work better when citizens have access to information and the opportunity to participate and influence decision-making processes through, for instance, participatory platforms that democratize access to information on programs and school needs and provide a feedback mechanism. 

Transparency, accountability and participation are built into the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Public Financial Management Reform Roadmap. Strengthening governance framework, internal controls and participatory arrangements are reforms DepEd is implementing to ensure that accountability is clearly focused on the roles of key officials and that the performance of delegated approval authority is monitored to reduce the risk of abuse.

 

PHOTO: Credit: Department of Education - Philippines

It would be great to hear more from you about the focus of the Department of Education’s OGP commitment. How can a participatory monitoring and evaluation platform help Filipino children?

Through OGP, the Department of Education (DepEd) committed to adopt a participatory platform for monitoring and evaluation of basic education inputs (like learning materials and teacher trainings) and service delivery in public schools to complement its work. Community stakeholders and civil society organizations will help ensure that the needs and gaps in delivering basic education inputs are better addressed. Program implementers, budget officers and others will then be able to learn which strategies work and what needs to be improved based on publicly verified data to better support Last Mile School beneficiaries. 

The adoption of the monitoring and evaluation platform will be piloted in at most 50% of the physical target based on approved budget for the year for the Last Mile School Program. Last Mile Schools are those with less than four classrooms, usually makeshift and nonstandard ones; no electricity; no funds for repairs or new construction projects in the last four years; and a travel distance of more than one hour away from the center, accessible only through difficult terrain. These are schools with multi-grade classes, less than five teachers, and a population of less than 100 learners, more than 75% of whom are indigenous peoples. As of date, around 9,225 schools across the country have been identified as needing immediate support.

PHOTO: Credit: Department of Education - Philippines

Transparency is a major focus of most OGP commitments on public service delivery, yet only less than a third of those involve an accountability component. Your team has incorporated accountability mechanisms through monitoring and evaluation elements of the platform. Can you tell us more about that, and why was it important to your team?

DepEd’s commitment aims to provide adequate education facilities, personnel, and learning resources to those schools that have not met the allocation and funding criteria for various basic education inputs. The open participatory monitoring and evaluation platform will facilitate in measuring how service providers bridge the delivery of service gaps in schools.

Accountability remains an indispensable principle in monitoring and evaluation. Whatever results that would be generated from the monitoring and evaluation activities will be diagnosed, evaluated and put into the next planning activities. Service providers will then be made accountable for the outputs and outcomes of programs.

PHOTO: Credit: Department of Education - Philippines

What has been the progress of the commitment so far? What challenges have you all faced along the way, and do you have any advice to share with other OGP members looking to improve education services through their open government action plans?

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges to the education sector in the Philippines, just like in most parts of the world. To mitigate its spread and amidst the threats and uncertainties of the COVID-19 outbreak, DepEd looked for new ways to continue learning, while ensuring the health and safety of all learners, teachers and personnel. 

The Last Mile School Program aims to address the gaps in resources and facilities of schools that are located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas. 

In 2020, the construction of classrooms in Last Mile Schools was temporarily put on hold due to restrictions that must be observed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, the distribution of computer packages to learners and educators in the identified beneficiary Last Mile Schools has been implemented as part of the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan). The plan is DepEd’s way of ensuring that learning progresses among students even amidst disasters such as natural calamities, storms, fires, and pandemics. It is the DepEd’s major response and commitment in protecting the health, safety, and well-being of learners, teachers, and personnel.

While we are in this very challenging environment given the COVID-19 pandemic, all systems must go. Education cannot wait. 

 

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