By hermogenes N. Camangeg, PDO-I, Division Office

The dictum of the 1987 constitution involving public trust has been one of the raging clamors of Filipinos for such a long time. Consequently, government offices are trying their best to move away from the shadows of derogatory words associated with the word public.

According to studies, public trust in government is a key element of good governance and is necessary for determining an organization’s competitiveness (Gabriel, A. & Castillo, L., 2020). As such, reforms from administration to administration are being introduced to change how the people perceive the quality of services and to improve the integrity of government offices.

The education sector is no exemption from the looming concerns often linked with its large bureaucracy and accountability practices (Reyes, 2009). To address this issue, a reform was instituted through the issuance of the Republic Act of 9155. It aims to increase accountability by devolving functions and granting substantial autonomy to school officials.

In line with the objectives of the Act is the introduction of a school-based management framework that encourages good governance among schools. The framework also serves as a measure of the level of SBM practice that determines the degree of observance of the principles of leadership and school governance, curriculum and learning, accountability and continuous improvement, and management of resources. Despite having individual percentage weights, the principles are chained with each other, for instance, efficient management of resources is often associated with effective governance. Also, the reform intends to stimulate friendly competition with the notion that in the long run would improve the quality of services.

However, the level of compliance is often undermined by incongruences reported by the Commission on Audit and other oversight agencies. Such is the schools’ failure to establish transparency. This is evidenced by the assessment undertaken by the World Bank (2016). Based on their report, approximately 70% of elementary and public schools have transparency boards. However, only 40% were accessible by the public which is in contrast with the requirements of the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007. This is even worsened by incomprehensible data and outdated postings of submitted school financial reports. Their failure to provide thorough and up-to-date information induces doubts and creates gaps in most of the parameters of good governance and of the level of practice of efficient school-based management. Perhaps an initiative to deal with the looming concerns would pose a niche for school governance.

According to research, sound fiscal management is imperative to instill a high degree of accountability and transparency. This can be attained by inclusive planning and budgeting, prudent spending, and sound fiscal reporting. Inclusive planning would entail the involvement of internal and external stakeholders throughout the planning processes from needs assessment to budget allocation. Participative decision-making promotes the attainment of effective planning. Additionally, prudent spending is indispensable to ensure sound fiscal management. Such assure that expenditures are only within the grounds of the planned budget. In the instance of fund realignment, the consensus of the general body must be secured to avoid suspicions. And lastly, to assess the congruence of the plans to the expenditures, sound fiscal reporting should be established. This would include posting reports that could easily be understood by the stakeholders inside and outside the organization. Given the emerging trends in digitalization, several platforms can be used to post reports on conspicuous places. This should not be limited to transparency boards but may also cross over to online sites such as official school pages and websites.

However, for the strategic niche to work, the school should ensure that the motive should not just be under the shadow of compliance. But of a work committedly done beyond the course of a traditional school official.