How to avoid repetition of the pork barrel disaster #ScrapPork

There are many calls to scrap the pork barrel which includes the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Presidential Pork. Reform is not an option as Pork barrel, by any other name, is anti-development. “Pork, by any other name, is institutional plunder and patronage under the collaboration of bureaucrats and corporate interests. Transparent pork is transparent plunder. Effective pork is effective political patronage. There is no way you can purge the evils in pork. You have to abolish it per se. And when we say abolish, we mean to scrap the entire pork system, not repackage it under a new name.”

A movement called the “Web Reporting of Budgets of Officials by Social Media Scrutiny” (We R Boss ) suggests that to prevent Pork from sneaking back under a new name or new scheme, “we, as ordinary citizens, have the power under existing laws to directly enact new laws = including budgetary laws that directly affect us. This can be done through a LISTA GASTOS Ordinance or Live Streaming Audit of Government Appropriation systems by transparent online social media.

what is PDAF
What is PDAF? (enlarge)

There are many ideas and we encourage the citizens to pitch in ways to prevent another pork barrel disaster.

I asked my friend, Frank Numann** on what steps need to be taken to avoid a repetition of the pork barrel disaster. He provided short descriptions which he considers to be critical success factors. These are based on basic Government Governance rules (Trias Politica) which prescribes the different tasks and the separation of duties:

  • Congress legislates and controls the Executive
  • The Executive executes diligently
  • The Judiciary interprets and applies the laws, independently and fairly

Here are his thoughts:

What we need to do is dive deep and make sure at the operational level each of these concepts are applied consistently. So we here are five key elements and what we should promote as next steps.

1. Clear rules that are practical and enforceable

The system that will replace the Pork Barrel needs to be clearly described. I am unsure who is authorised to write budgetary procedures. If done by Executive Order (rather than by Congressional Bill), we have the advantage that the President can appoint a drafting committee that includes practitioners, who know where the risks lie and can focus on controls in those places. Congress Members must not be allowed to change or add to the text. Based on recent experience, such edits will likely be aimed at weakening controls. Any future changes must be reviewed and agreed by the same committee. With their background knowledge, they can secure the regulation’s continued consistency. The decree must spell out who in the Executive will be responsible for each control.

We must get the President to appoint a committee to draft the regulation and we must place experienced people, who understand operational aspects, to serve on it.

2. Educate civil servants on the provisions of the regulation

These clear rules must be explained to the civil servants who will execute the regulation. Don’t assume that this will happen without our active involvement. The education must ensure that people familiar with the drafting sit down with key staff, who have to enforce the regulation and explain the logic, controls and expectations of the departmental and budget office staff.

We must also ensure that those who will be asked to sign off control documents are properly trained in the basics of this regulation and know to ask the right questions to probe that all controls were executed and confirmed the genuine nature of the budget release.

3. Congress has a duty to supervise the executive

House and Senate have an important role in this system of governance. Congress’s must hold Secretaries and their departmental staff to account. It must ask the Executive branch for information about the implementation of the programme, challenge its effectiveness based on data provided and, where necessary, recommend improvements.

We can help this process by making sure the regulation is supported by simple IT tools that gather data and enable reporting on its controls (e.g. who gets how much, when, are accounting documents up-to-date, names of authorising officers).

4.  Independent Audit

Trust but verify. The recent audit report showed that independent and professional outsiders must independently provide assurance that the framework operates as designed. Audit is an essential in any business or public administration control framework. The frequency and scope of the audit must be included in the regulation with reports to be made available publicly. The audit reports must be discussed by Congress to deliver on its duty to supervise.

Our task is to include mandatory audit provisions in the regulation (in coordination with the Special Audit Office).

5. The President’s role

Finally, the President has a great opportunity to reinforce his anti-corruption theme by publicly sponsoring the development of a comprehensive and transparent process to provide assistance locally to the people that need it most. He can and must ‘set the tone at the top’ and repeat that message at every public opportunity and also at the start of every Cabinet meeting. He probably knows that the public watches what he ‘does’ (even more than what he ‘says’). For his Cabinet members, it will be ‘what interests my boss, intrigues me’. As Secretaries copy the President’s behaviour in their Departmental meetings, there will be a powerful trickle down effect.


**Frank Numann, a Dutch national with an MBA, who worked in Shell for 35 years, holding different Finance jobs, including being country internal audit manager in Nigeria and Russia. In the last few years, Numann has worked as global anti bribery and corruption officer for Shell’s oil and gas production division. He combines practical control experience with a passion for fighting bribery and corruption.