How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. 

I’m the Director of the electronic procurement system group, Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), under the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management. We are the central procuring arm of the government for common-use supplies and equipment.

The PhilGEPS is a single, central portal that serves as the primary and definitive source of information in government procurement as stated in Section 8 of the Philippine’s Government Procurement Reform Act. The objective of the PhilGEPS is to provide transparency in government public procurement. With transparency, we are able to have the widest dissemination of bids, which encourages more prospective bidders to participate in government bids.

The PhilGEPS is used by all procuring entities under the Philippine Government, including national government agencies, state universities and colleges, government-owned and controlled corporations, government financial institutions, and local government units (provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays).

I provide direction in the continuous enhancement, maintenance and operation of the PhilGEPS. There are about 57,600 government procuring entities and 255,560 merchants (suppliers, contractors and consultants) registered in the system.

Procurement is important since the fulfillment of the respective agencies’ mandate requires resources that should be procured at the right time, price and quality.

We are currently working on the implementation of an expanded PhilGEPS, which we call the modernised PhilGEPS (mPhilGEPS). The mPhilGEPS is used to improve the technology of the system and expand its functionalities. As the central procurement agency, we are also operating a virtual store as part of the mPhilGEPS, where procuring entities can directly purchase common-use supplies and equipment.

At the same time, I also direct the management of IT Services of the organisation to cater to the internal IT needs of the agency.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year? 

Implementing new functionalities in the system requires policy approval by the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB). The GPPB is an interagency body tasked to protect the national interest of the Philippine government’s public procurement.

The most impactful project that I worked on this year is obtaining GPPB’s approval on the guidelines for procuring agencies and merchants to use the end-to-end procurement process (planning to contract implementation) functionality of the mPhilGEPS. Policy is important in implementing systems so that the client agencies and merchants are guided during the implementation, and to ensure that they comply with the process.

We also worked on our Open Government Partnership (OGP) commitment from 2019 to 2022 entitled “Stakeholders engagement in harnessing the value of the PhilGEPS Data”. As part of this commitment, we conducted a capacity building workshop with our Commission on Audit (COA) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to capacitate them on how to use the PhilGEPS data for the conduct of the Citizen Participatory Audits (CPA).

We will be conducting another Ideathon in December 2021 (the previous one was conducted in 2020) with students, civil society organisations, and other government agencies. The Ideathon will help them understand and appreciate government procurement using visualisation, improve citizens’ awareness of the PhilGEPS website and data availability, and gather ideas on how to use and communicate public procurement to a wider audience.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021? 

As we are still in a pandemic, one of my unexpected learnings from 2021 is that we can survive any obstacle no matter how hard it is as long as we remain resilient and adaptive to challenges. Moreover, nothing is permanent in this world. We should be able to adjust and adapt to the changes that we face, especially as a technology advocate.

What’s your favorite memory from the past year?

I remember the time when our country had its first lockdown due to the surge in Covid-19 cases. Our group had work challenges at first, but we were able to manage by using electronic collaboration and communication tools. We were also able to serve our clients purely through the use of the electronic system without having face-to-face transactions. Last year was the time where we maximised the use of technology.

What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022? 

I’m excited to explore the use of AI in the workplace. A lot of our clients (both from the government agencies and the merchants) are requesting assistance from us on the use of the PhilGEPS. Thus, we are facing challenges in answering telephone calls considering the limited number of personnel and the volume of requests, which is approximately more than a thousand in a week.

We are adding manpower to our customer service section and upgrading our PABX system to address these issues. Aside from that, we will use AI technology. We are looking into improving our customer service through the aid of a VoiceBot. We will also explore other uses of AI to improve our systems.

Moreover, since the data stored in our systems has expanded through the years, our team will also be exploring the use of data warehousing tools to store, secure, and access old data from our various information systems.

What are your priorities for 2022?

My priorities for 2022 include the following:  Pushing for the strengthening of our organisation by requesting for a reorganisation so that we will be responsive to the needs of our clients; fully implementing projects such as the mPhilGEPS, capacitating the users of the system not only on how to use the system but also for them to know the value of the data collected from it through the analysis of the information processed by using data analytics and converting it to evidence based policy recommendations.

This is part of our commitment to Open Government Partnership (OGP) I mentioned earlier, which should be completed by next year.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?

My mentors are my former superiors who instilled in me the value of professionalism, integrity and excellence at work.  For me, heroes are those around the world who work in helping others i.e. the frontliners in the fight against Covid-19. They risk their lives for others and they are the ones who fight head-on against the virus for us to survive.

What gets you up in the morning?

The fact that I’m alive and healthy, knowing that God has blessed me with another day is enough for me to get up. Moreover, the inspiration that I get from my family also adds to the energy that wakes me up in the morning.