Monday, June 18, 2007

GMA signs anti-red tape bill

New law seeks to prevent graft, impose stiff penalties


President Arroyo has signed Republic Act No. 9485, a law that seeks to cut bureaucratic red tape, prevent graft and corruption, and impose stiff penalties on violators, Malacanang said yesterday.

RA 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, signed last June 2, adopts simplified measures to expedite transactions in all government agencies, including local government units and government-owned and-controlled corporations.

The new law requires government offices to adopt fixed deadlines for the completion of transactions and regularly assess and upgrade their frontline services. It also makes heads of government agencies, accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient, and reliable services.

"Towards this end, the State shall maintain honesty and responsibility among its public officials and employees, and shall take appropriate measures to promote transparency in each agency with regard to the manner of transacting with the public," the law read.

The passage of the anti-red tape law comes amid international surveys showing the foreign perception of the Philippines as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Surveys have shown a high level of concern that the unnecessary complexity of procedures and delay in implementing them have created rolls of red tape in the country.

Under RA 9485, government agencies are required to work on any application for any privilege, right, permit, reward, license, concession, or for any modification, renewal or extension within five working days in simple transactions and 10 working days in complex cases.

The number of signatories in any document will be limited to a maximum of five signatures, which represent officers supervising the office.

Any denial of application shall be fully explained in writing to the client within five working days from receipt of request.

If an agency fails to act on an application or request for renewal of permit, license, or authority, these shall automatically be extended until a decision or resolution is rendered on the application for renewal.

The law also requires government agencies to do regular time-and-motion studies, and undergo evaluation and improvement of transaction procedures.

Government offices must likewise establish their service standards or a Citizen’s Charter in the form of information billboards.

The billboards, posted at the main entrance of offices, will list the procedures, the persons responsible for each step, the maximum time for each step, the documents and fees required in each step, and the procedure for filing complaints.

They will also set up a public assistance/complaints desk in all their offices, while all employees shall be provided with an official identification card which should be visibly worn during office hours.

All agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a report card survey to be initiated by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), in coordination with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).

Under the law, violators will be punished and fixers held criminally liable while whistleblowers will be granted immunity.

Light offenses -- such as refusal to accept or act on applications or requests, attend to clients or render services, or imposing additional irrelevant requirements -- will merit a 30-day suspension on the first offense; a threemonth suspension on the second; and dismissal and disqualification from public service on the third.

Grave offenses, such as "fixing" or colluding with "fixers," will merit dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service.

"Fixers" face a maximum of six years’ imprisonment or a fine of R200,000.

The law takes into effect 15 days following its publication in two national newspapers. Those performing judicial, quasi-judicial, and legislative functions are excluded from the coverage of this Act.

The CSC, in coordination with the DAP, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, shall promulgate the rules and regulations within 90 days from effectivity of the law.

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