The Degree of Citizen Participation in the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) Project
Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo
There is a growing concern for the upholding of ethics in the government as a result of the many scandals in the recent years (Sherman, 1998:13-14). In the 2015 report of Transparency International, the Philippines came out to be 95th in ranking out of 175 countries in terms of corruption, 1 being the least corrupt. The Commission on Audit (COA) serves to be as the top national agency of the Philippines ensuring the prudent and proper utilization of public resources (COA Operational Guidelines, 2015). In line with the issue of government transparency and accountability, it launched the project called the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA), which educates, involves and engages the ordinary Filipino people in the accountability process of government projects.
This paper seeks to examine the degree of citizen participation of the citizen-auditors in the auditing process of some government projects, particularly in the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) of the Commission on Audit (COA). Consequently, it also wants to unravel the advantages and disadvantages of having citizen participation in the conduct of auditing.
The said project officially started on 26 November 2012 in response to the greater call for transparency and accountability as a bedrock of Good Governance through the involvement of citizens’ participation. Accredited NGOs are given the authorization and the proper training to conduct money audits (COA-UNDP, 2002). With CPA, new mechanisms are introduced to ensure government accountability, through which the government is steered (Alfiler, 2003). It unfolds new frontiers in which citizens can explore and participate in a democratic government. It is worthy to note that the project bagged the Bright Spot Award at the Open Government Partnership Summit in London on November 1, 2013.
Specifically, this paper utilizes the framework of the Ladder of Participation of Sherry Arnstein (1969) to examine degree of citizen participation of citizen-auditors in the CPA program. For the methodology, the researcher conducted in-depth interviews with citizen-auditors and with a COA Director directly involved in this program. Furthermore, this paper also examines major documents involving in the crafting and the implementation of this project such as COA Circulars and COA-UNDP Participatory Audit Manual.
Preliminary findings show that the highest rung stipulated by Arnstein, which is the Citizen Control, comes out to be a daunting task because it unsettles the typical Weberian outlook of the government officials. Level 8 (the highest rung of citizen participation) connotes booting out of the role of the government and putting the entire control (that is why it is called “Citizen Control”) upon the hands of citizens. As such, issues like the choice of final decision-makers, competency of citizens to handle government functions, and new role of the government come to the fore.
The argument of Arnstein saying that there are indeed manipulations happening in the engagements of citizens with the government do exist. However, the researcher would like to argue that the highest rung of citizen participation might not be healthy and sustainable for the bureaucracy.
This paper was presented at the 2017 Lien Conference on Good Governance with the theme of Forging Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Globalization. It was organized by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in collaboration with the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS). It was held on 27-28 October 2017 in Singapore.