PFMP Supports Participatory Audit of Farm-To-Market-Roads In Palawan

Published: 21 January 2015
Commission on Audit officials and Palawan civil society organizations engage in a dialogue. (photo courtesy of Sylvia Inciong of the Public Financial Management Program)

PUERTO PRINCESA - Some 80 participants from the Commission on Audit (COA) and various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from Palawan recently gathered in Puerto Princesa for a capacity building and audit planning workshop for a new Farm-to-Market-Roads (FMRs) citizen participatory audit (CPA).

The Palawan component is part of a nationwide performance audit that COA is implementing in cooperation with citizens and CSOs across the country. CSO partners are expected to help collect data on some of the remote FMR projects. The activity is coordinated by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) in cooperation with COA. It is sponsored by the Philippines- Australia Public Financial Management Program (PFMP) as part of its support to the second phase of COA’s CPA Program. The audit aims to determine the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Farm-to-Market-Road Development Program (FMRDP).

Importance of Farm-to-Market Roads for livelihood

FMRs are an integral part of the Aquino Administration’s Budget Priorities Framework. One of the priorities in sustaining the growth momentum in the country is to increase the span and quality of transportation. An objective of the Administration has been to increase government spending in infrastructure as a ratio of GDP, from 2.6% in 2011 to 5-6% by 2016. This includes investing in a coherent and efficient intermodal national transport roadmap which includes better connecting the supply of agricultural goods to distribution hubs. The plan also recognises that interventions need to lead to increasing productivity and incomes of farmers and fisherfolks since two thirds of the poor depend on farming and fishing for income and sustenance. DA is the lead agency for the construction, restoration, and rehabilitation of FMRs and implements the projects in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local government units (LGUs).

The DA’s target for the construction of FMRs from 2011 to 2016 is 13,999 KMs. In 2014, P 12 Billion were allocated to the DA’s FMRD Program. DA intended to build 1000 KMs of FMRs in 2014 at a cost having recently gone up to P12 Million per KM. Some issues observed in such programs in the past include poor construction quality, improper observance of set criteria such as releasing funds for roadways other than those meant to help farmers, or where there were no clearly identified locations for the budgeted roads.

The audit will:

  • validate compliance of the LGUs with the qualification requirements for contractors or for the LGUs themselves (when implemented “by Administration”)
    • validate reported construction accomplishments on FMRs including compliance with the project plans and specifications

Seven COA/Citizen audit teams were established for deployment throughout the province. The teams are comprised of COA representatives including accountants, engineers and team supervisors as well as Palawan CSO representatives and citizens from the areas where the audits will be conducted. Taking part in the planning workshop were farmers’ associations and cooperatives, Palawan NGO networks, universities and individual citizens.

Farmers are dependent on road improvements for their livelihood. Hence, it was important for them to participate in the workshops and learn about the DA’s implementation guidelines for the FMRDP. This will help verify if the LGUs are complying with the requirements and prioritizing the roads appropriately.

Use of Geotagging techniques

The citizens are mainly involved in information gathering using “geotagging” techniques. As a tool for data collection, geotagging combines simple technologies such as cell phone cameras, geographic positioning coordinates (GPS) and google maps to record data on specific projects. Simple mobile apps allow citizens to assign geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude + elevation) to locations on particular road projects and generate observations associated to those points. It is done by taking photos, nodes and tracks with recorded GPS coordinates and allows geotagged road project data to be easily and accurately located on a map and uploaded to an agency website. The data is then processed by COA Auditors as part of the audit process. The technology is particularly suited for use by a wide range of stakeholders to help monitor the implementation of nationwide programs involving sub-projects in several locations such as the DA’s FMRDP.

The main infrastructure program audited under COA’s CPA program is FMRs. COA is therefore focusing on FMRs as a key area to roll out the program in regions beyond the National Capital Region (NCR). The time frame for this audit is from January to April 2015 and will include 3 to 4 provinces to generate adequate sampling and derive lessons and trends in the implementation of the program from the years 2012 to 2014.

Upcoming steps in the implementation of this participatory audit include additional capacity and partnership building; the actual field and data gathering work; report writing; communicating results and findings to the AAR; simplifying the audit report and awareness raising about the audit findings.

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