GOVERNANCE and public administration can be quite tricky. It is not as simple as how politicians promise heaven during the elections. It needs a certain skillset from the local leaders to successfully forge in genuine development and change.
You see, local leaders have well defined limits in resources and power. They cannot do anything and everything they want however honest and sincere they can be. For instance, they are governed by certain limitations such as budget which is almost always very scarce. With all the problems in their respective communities from peace and order, unemployment, and the lack of facilities that all need to be addressed, the trick in governance boils down to prioritizing. This is where you can separate a visionary from a delusional leader. Here as well we can see if the elected officials are good managers of resources or simply stupid.
Well for most part, we can’t really blame the entire fault to them. Most of the elected officials have not taken public administration in their college course or in their post graduate course. Our only set requirement for running and occupying public office is the ability to read and write. And so they promise all things during elections to earn votes not knowing they cannot really fulfill most of them on a three-year term.
Now that the election is over, what is the next thing to do? The first thing that local politicians would do is work on the approval of their pet projects. They would build, build, and build. They will build classrooms, drainage, roads, covered courts, etc. And it may seem that they are doing the right thing, but actually they are probably wasting millions if not billions of people’s money without them knowing.
The first thing that leaders should do supposedly after the elections is to gather baseline data. Leaders should always start with baseline data. One cannot really help a sector or a group if one doesn’t even know how many they are and how severe their problems are. Baseline data gives one a point to start and strategize ones programs, projects and activities. It also gives the leader a benchmark to know whether his efforts have successfully addressed the issues.
Baseline data are essential information for sound decisions. A lot of poor judgments from politicians are sometimes due to absence of baseline data. Without it, resources gets wasted and no significant results are achieved. Afterall, the greatness of a leader is not really measured on how kind he is to his constituents but how many lives have been changed for the better because of his efforts. If you cannot quantify the outcome then it’s a failure. And a baseline data is always needed to measure such.
This brings me to the point that the national government should make it mandatory for all local governments to have an updated Community-based Monitoring System (CBMS) so that whoever sits as public official will have baseline data to work with in his term of office.
For those who are not familiar with CBMS, it is a data bank system that identifies how many people are actually living in the area, what their jobs are, how poor they are, etc. It is a very important tool to be used before any project is conceptualized. It can even help us identify how many women and children are exposed when calamity strikes. Sad to say, our politicians are only interested in how many voters are registered in such areas and whether these voters share their political color or not. In that case, believe me, they have a very elaborate system.
Only with a baseline data where one can identify what infrastructure should be prioritized and where should it be built. With baseline data, infrastructures can now be complemented with capacity development needed by the people to maximize the use of the infrastructure built. Baseline data provides for strategic use of scarce resources.*