The Philippines will use blockchain in its procurement process, and is tracking major projects from space to slash corruption, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has told GovInsider in an exclusive interview.

Speaking on the sidelines of the November Open Government Partnership Summit, the three-time head of the Department of Budget and Management – reporting directly to the President – announced plans to use Blockchain after researching the tech to answer questions put forwards by GovInsider.

“We’re going to use it for our warehousing,” he said. “I’m the head of the procurement service. I buy subways, I buy aircraft”. A blockchain system for tracking this will be “secure and less expensive compared to a big data system.”

However, “it’s too early for it to apply to our budget. Because it affects the whole bureaucracy, so too risky,” he added.

The Philippines is known for its advanced government procurement portal, PhilGEPS. Work to upgrade this system is ongoing, although a contract signed by the previous administration with a Canadian supplier has experienced delays in the IT development.

Diokno also revealed a government project to track major projects from space. “This is what we call Project DIME (Digital Imagery Monitoring and Evaluation). We’re going to use satellites and drones because the Philippines is composed of 7,200 islands and sometimes it’s difficult to monitor projects up there in the mountains.”

Satellite images are uploaded online, and citizens can “actively participate” in the progress of 75 major projects, Diokno continues. “Citizens can actually monitor it and say “This project is not moving” – we can actually direct the inquiry to the appropriate ministry,” he explains.

Department of the Interior and Local Government together with the United Nations Development Programme have built a new app, DevLive, that enables citizens to report corruption on road projects in exchange for rewards. The app gamifies the corruption-reporting process, and is just in the process of being rolled out across the public sector, he said. “You download an app and then you can actually report to the central ministry, and also to my department and to the Senate and the House simultaneously,” the Secretary explains. “We plan to use it more widely in the next few years.”

More broadly, he wants to see a position where the private sector makes “competitive bids” for all public sector tenders, the Secretary said – via an online platform that ensures transparency. “All the meetings, the pre-bid consultations that are there are monitored,” he points out. “We are going to minimise corruption because there will be no ‘negotiated’ bids.”

To this end, the government is moving from an obligation-based reporting system to a cash-based system. Simply put, this gives agencies a single financial year in which to spend their budgets, ensuring that suppliers have to deliver against their contracts in order to get paid in that same financial year. Currently, suppliers are able to get paid upfront and not deliver in that same financial year, leading to waste and potential abuse of public funds.

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