Friday, September 08, 2006

Dumaguete's Public Governance Scorecard

It's heartening to see Dumaguete's local government taking those first small steps to promoting awareness of its roadmap for city development. A month ago, at the Philippine City Competitiveness Ranking Project (PCCRP) workshop in Silliman, transparency came out as the primary deficiency of this administration. In answer to that, the city administration published its scorecard in the Metro Post. Last week's issue carried a renewed call by Engr. Josie Antonio, our Planning and Development Officer, for feedback to the roadmap. Consider this as the first in a series of responses.

Some background is in order. What's been presented as Dumaguete's roadmap is the output of a workshop with the Institute for Solidarity in Asia, an independent non-government non-profit institution headed by former Finance Secretary Jess Estanislao. Last year, the ISA invited mayors from across the country to join in their Public Governance System (PGS) and Dream Cities Programs. ISA has been running regular checkpoint workshops with its participants. In its last meeting, eight cities -- San Fernando (La Union), Tagbilaran, Calbayog, Iloilo, Naga, Samal, Cebu and Marikina -- were selected as showcases of the program.

Central to the PGS is the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), a planning tool developed in Harvard, and originally intended for companies. The scorecard measures a company's activities in terms of its vision and strategies. It is supposed to give managers a comprehensive view of the performance of a business. The scorecard is used foremost to translate a vision into operational goals.

There are 14 strategic objectives in Dumaguete's scorecard: improved peace and order, promotion as educational center, government employee morale, values education for government employees, improved fund collection, improved fund management, additional sources of revenue, skills and entrepreneurship training programs, promotion of broadband capabilities, improved services to constituency, environmental protection, reduction of poverty, improved dialogue among the different sectors, and high quality of life.

Snap! Snap! Are you still with me? I don't blame you if you've zoned out momentarily while reading through Dumaguete's scorecard criteria. Individually, the goals are laudable, even noble, but taken together, they do not a city vision make. In this case, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Here are my complaints against this scorecard:

1) There are far too many strategic objectives, many of them redundant and trivial.

2) There is no focus to the scorecard, no central idea to what the city is. This is one of the results of having too many objectives.

3) The scorecard mixes up operational issues with strategic visions. Yes, several aspects of city administration need improvement, even a complete overhaul; yes, it is central to the development of the city; but resolution of these issues should become a matter of course in achieving the strategic vision.

4) Many of the goals seem to be no more than motherhood statements. Take "reduced poverty incidence", for example.

5) Not covered in great detail here, but apparent from a reading of the actual presentation: it reduces performance metrics to a series of percentages, e.g., 100% increase in educational and sports tourism. What is the baseline number to this 100%?

6) The scorecard assumes a 10-year timeframe in which to meet its strategic objectives, hence the target year of 2015. Ten years is a long time, but that's an acceptable working period given the nature of cities. The problem is that the scorecard does not break down this timeframe into manageable chunks. For example, the city aims to have one policeman to every 500 citizens by 2015: how will that happen? If 500 policemen suddenly descend into our city in 2015, shall we say that the goal has been accomplished, even though for the intervening nine years we've been making do with 20 police officers?

7) It does not take into consideration the role that the neighboring towns and municipalities will play in the development of Dumaguete.

Some suggestions for revising this scorecard:

1) Establish the areas where we are strong or where we can be strong and use those as the primary strategic objectives: education, tourism, and business process outsourcing. There are already hints of that in the scorecard, so this can be done with some rearrangement.

2) Group together related objectives. Collapse operational issues into these objectives. Peace and order, livelihood, and environment can fall under "quality of life." Government employee morale, values education, and services to constituency can fall under "streamlined administration." A similar process can be done for revenue-related objectives.

3) Remove trivial objectives. Promotion of broadband capabilities is not a strategic objective. It is a capability that is tied to business process outsourcing and education. Similarly, "regular interaction between sectors" is a means to achieving strategic objectives, and should not be an objective in itself.

4) Establish hard numbers instead of percentages. This will allow better visualization of the data.

5) Break down the ten-year targets into quarterly targets, and measure at those intervals.

6) Involve neighboring towns and municipalities in the planning. Make use of their resources and share our own.

These suggestions are not to say that the scorecard we have is useless, merely that it could stand for a lot of improvement. That's really part of the feedback process. As I have no monopoly on good ideas and a vision for the city, I hope other folks will come out with their own suggestions to the roadmap. We need to learn to start making our own beds.

With thanks to Willy Priles, Jr. for his coverage of Naga's PGS scorecard.