Public Service

Paving the Highways of Change

By Liza Medenilla, Philippines

In the survey of the Makati Business Club on Perception of (Philippine) Government Performance for the second semester of 2014, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) leaped from rank 27 to rank 12.

This is just the latest proof of the continuing transformation of DPWH from an agency widely perceived to be corrupt, to an exemplar of good governance and solid performance.  Secretary Rogelio L. Singson started this transformation when came on board  in July 2010, but some seeds of change had already been sown even before that.

One of the institutions that laid the foundation for change was the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – a foreign university located more than 3,000 miles away from Manila.  This was through the grant provided by the Australian Government to improve the internal control and internal audit systems in the DPWH in 2009. QUT bid for and got the contract.

I was then newly designated OIC-Director of the Internal Audit Service (IAS) of the DPWH. Although my background was human resources, the QUT quickened, smoothened and systematized my management of the steep learning curve. From the consultants commissioned by QUT and stationed in our office, my colleagues and I gained a spectrum of lessons that included the fundamentals of internal control, the latest global trends in audit and the best practices in risk management.

Although the IAS Director was the only one who set foot on its campus in Brisbane, QUT succeeded in enhancing the quality of the work process and output of the whole IAS. And this was just in time for the arrival of Sec. Singson who, fully recognizing the value of the audit function, demanded much from us.  Unlike our previous department secretaries, Secretary Singson read every page of audit reports and wrote substantive and substantial marginal notes.  He used audit findings to craft or revise policies, tighten procedures and provide HR interventions. He used our work output – enhanced by our QUT experience – in steering the Department to his vision of an agency doing “the right project with the right cost and right qualify, right on time, using the right people.”

QUT not only contributed to the transformation of my organization; it also left a lasting positive impact on me as a professional and on my career advancement.

After my stint in audit, I was reassigned to procurement – an area considered most vulnerable to corruption – and eventually  promoted to Assistant Secretary overseeing six function:  procurement, HR, finance, legal, IT and stakeholders’ relations. I know that these developments are a consequence of my performance as Director of internal audit, a performance that would have been wanting were it not for my auspicious QUT experience.

To this day, with my higher and expanded responsibilities, I continue to instinctively draw lessons from my QUT experience. And this enables me to contribute to the continuing reform and achievements of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the resultant infrastructure development in the Philippines.

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