By Kathleen Faye N. Nagales
Consistent with the commitment of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in strengthening citizen participation in governmental processes, a series of consultation meetings was held to solicit inputs, suggestions and recommendations on the Operating Guidelines of the DBM Civil Society Organization (CSO) Desk.
On March 30, 2021, the DBM re-established the CSO Desk to serve as the focal unit in DBM for concerns related to the CSO participation in all phases of the budget cycle –preparation, authorization, execution and accountability. The CSO Desk will also provide information to the public on the process of citizen engagement and feedback on how citizens’ inputs are used in the formulation and implementation of the annual budget.
As part of its operationalization, the CSO Desk Guidelines is being crafted that will outline the process on how the CSOs can utilize the platform for their concerns. The DBM conducted initial consultation meetings with the Bureaus/Service/Office (BSOs) concerned at the Central Office on March 24, 2022 and the Regional Offices (ROs) on March 25, 2022 to discuss how the DBM will ensure that a systematic process is in place to address the CSO concerns.
DBM RO XII Director Akmad J. Usman shared during the RO consultation meeting that one of the identified reasons why CSO participation has not materialized until now is the CSOs’ lack of capacity in terms of government processes specifically in local budgeting. He cited the partnership of DBM RO XII with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Mahintana Foundation and Association of Foundations (AF) of the Philippines on the establishment of a CSO Academy in the Region to help in capacitating the CSOs. He reiterated the importance of informing the CSOs about the governance processes particularly in terms of budgeting. He added that this kind of initiative could be adopted and replicated in future activities of PH-OGP.
For the non-government consultation, the DBM met with key non-government partners last June 7, 2022 to seek additional inputs and comments on the CSO Desk. The consultation meeting was attended by representatives from the Social Watch Philippines (SWP), Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), Move as One Coalition, CSO2 Project Team, Unang Hakbang Foundation (UHF), Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs Networks (MINCODE), Kaabag sa Sugbo Foundation, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Coalition of Bicol Development (CBD), and Public Services Labor Independent Confederation- National Public Workers' Congress (PSLINK-PUBLIK)
The DBM believes that active participation of the citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) in the budget process plays a vital role in influencing governments to improve the quality of their processes particularly on the prudent use and allocation of public funds towards a more fiscally transparent policy, to deepen the standard of democracy and enhance accountability.
Through the CSO Desk under the supervision of by Usec. Rolando U. Toledo, the DBM will push this advocacy to promote more meaningful partnerships, encourage civic participation and facilitate effective conversation between the government and its people as envisioned.
The CSO Desk Guidelines is set to be issued at the 4th Quarter of 2022 with the CSO Desk Roadmap expected to be finished in the first quarter of 2023.