Transparency and trust in QC

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2021 - 12:00am

The American author, motivational speaker and legendary salesman Zig Ziglar put it best when he said that “when you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. When you do the right things in the right way, you have nothing to lose, precisely because you were unafraid to begin with.”

For me, this is the essence of transparency, as it directly relates to courage. Oftentimes, things devolve when people are afraid to make full and open disclosures, simply because they did not have the courage to swim against the tide, or to go against long-established norms. This is most evident in positions of power, especially in public service.

On the other hand, there are leaders who remain undaunted, even in the face of deeply-rooted institutional practices that were in place long before they assumed leadership. Compounded with the challenges of managing a global pandemic, choosing the much harder path of integrity becomes even more difficult.

As affirmed by the Commission on Audit (COA), however, no such short-cuts or dubious systems are in place in Quezon City. In only her first term in office (and again, despite being debilitated by the effects of COVID-19 pandemic), the COA awarded Mayor Joy Belmonte and the Quezon City local government unit (LGU) with the highest possible audit score that the agency can render to any agency or LGU.

For the first time in its 82-year history, the QC administration earned a “COA unqualified opinion” for its annual audit report for the year 2020. Essentially, this means that after a full and comprehensive inspection of its complete accounting records, physical checking of inventory and a cross-examination of each department’s documents and transactions, everything is squeaky clean in Quezon City. To paraphrase President Duterte, not even “a whiff of corruption” was uncovered.

Providentially, COA resident auditor for Quezon City Atty. Rex Quieta handed over the annual audit report during QC’s flag raising ceremony. He shared that Quezon City has complied with the standards of the government’s auditing firm, emphasizing that “this audit opinion is highly important because it signifies that the financial records and financial statements of Quezon City comply with the highest standards, rules and regulations.”

After thanking the COA for their thorough work, Mayor Joy Belmonte said that this recognition is a testament of her vision of good governance. “This is the most important distinction that a local government unit like us can get. This is our vision of good governance for Quezon City, and I would like to assure all my beloved QCitizens that we are only getting started,” she enthused.

As a born-and-raised QCitizen, I am overjoyed by this news – but frankly, I am not at all surprised. Under Mayor Joy’s administration, the Quezon City government has gone all-out in implementing measures towards improving the transparency and efficiency of its services.

In fact, Mayor Joy’s very first executive order after assuming office was to form the Internal Audit Service (IAS) to ensure that the city’s assets and resources are properly and transparently accounted for.

The IAS is tasked to advise the mayor on matters relating to management control and operations audit; conduct compliance, management and operations audit; review and appraise systems and procedures, organizational structures, asset management practices, financial and management records, reports and performance standards of the executive department; and analyze and evaluate management deficiencies and assist top management by recommending realistic courses of action, among others.

QC also established a business one-stop shop (BOSS) where business applications, permits, licenses and payments required for every business owner are now located in one area to streamline procedures, remove red tape and lessen processing time. Likewise, processes were digitized, including application for business permits, building permits and even established a registry system for jobs and employment.

I remember a candid conversation I had with Mayor Joy, where something she said really struck me. “Pia, the foundation of every relationship – especially a loving relationship – is trust. I honestly, genuinely and sincerely love the people of Quezon City, but I can’t just assume that they will love me back. For them to do that, they need to trust me first, and I will make sure to always do my best to deserve and preserve that trust.”

Personally, I trust that this recognition by the COA will make this foundation even stronger.

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